Serial: Who killed Hae Min Lee?
Hae Min Lee was killed by someone else (other than Adnan Syed, Jay Wilds, Don, or Roy Sharonnie Davis III).
Roy Sharonnie Davis III (a convicted murderer who was in the area) killed Hae Min Lee.
Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee, and buried her with Jay's help (this timeline differs from the version of events presented to the jury that convicted Adnan: killed after 2:30 PM and buried after 11 PM that night).
Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee, and buried her without Jay's help (this timeline differs from the version of events presented to the jury that convicted Adnan: killed after 2:30 PM and buried after 11 PM that night).
Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee, and buried her with Jay's help (this timeline was presented to the jury that convicted Adnan: he called for pickup at 2:35 PM after murdering Hae, and buried her around 7 PM).
Jay Wilds killed Hae Min Lee.
Shamim Syed (Adnan's mother) killed Hae Min Lee.
Hae Min Lee was a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland, who disappeared on January 13, 1999. When her body was found a month later on February 9, an investigation ensued that relied heavily on information provided by Jay Wilds, a marijuana dealer who had graduated from Hae's high school. The police claimed to have focused on Hae's ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, following a tip from an anonymous caller and information provided by
At trial, the prosecution claimed that Adnan killed Hae and then called Jay for help only twenty minutes after school ended, at 2:36 PM. After a few side trips, they allegedly buried Hae’s body less than six hours later, around 7:00 PM. While the first trial could not come to a conclusion, after a second trial Adnan was convicted of first degree murder.
People who follow the case (as well as those on the jury) have wildly differing opinions on Adnan's guilt. This is expected in any case with many contradictory pieces of evidence, where none of them are clearly conclusive. When we try to analyze many, often contradictory, pieces of evidence with differing levels of reliability, human conclusions often prove incredibly inaccurate. This is exactly the kind of case where probabilistic inference can reach a far more accurate conclusion than a court or public debate.
Several alternative suspects have been suggested including Hae’s new boyfriend (Don), an unnamed drug dealer, as well as serial rapists or killers, most notably Roy Davis. Davis was convicted of raping and murdering another student from Woodlawn, but that case was still unsolved at the time of Hae’s murder, so Davis was not investigated regarding Hae’s murder.
Rootclaim's main finding is that Adnan is most likely not guilty (definitely not "beyond reasonable doubt" as required to put him behind bars), and that someone else is responsible. Of the specific suspects, Roy Davis is the most likely, although he still accounts for only 29%.
As always, this conclusion is based on a mathematical integration of many pieces of evidence and inputs, but can be simplistically explained as follows:
As a starting point, female victims are about 16% likely to be murdered by an ex-boyfriend, and 12% by a stranger (of whom Davis is just one of millions).
Jay's eyewitness testimony corroborated by
The analysis of Roy Davis is very interesting, involving several calculations. While he is initially just one of millions, rare coincidences need to be explained if he's not involved. Namely: he lives along the victim’s planned route when she disappeared, and he previously murdered an 18 year old girl in a similar pattern (daytime abduction, strangulation, and leaving the body in a park). By carefully assessing the probability of each such coincidence, the Bayesian calculation can estimate whether together they are strong enough to overcome that very low “starting point”. The main factors taken into account are:
Davis is 1 of 60,000 strangers in Hae’s vicinity (based on demographics of Hae’s neighborhood).
Being a past murderer implies that Davis is 600 times more likely to be Hae’s killer (based on local crime statistics).
Living on the victims planned route - 6 times more likely (based on how much of the population of Woodlawn lived on Hae’s usual route).
Similar previous murder pattern - 24 times more likely (based on the similarities and differences between the murder of Hae and Davis’ past victim).
Overall the combined effect of all the coincidences is 86,000:1, which is higher than the initial 1:60,000, making Davis a very likely suspect among “strangers”. While strangers initially account for only 12%, the lack of evidence against any other specific suspect increases this likelihood dramatically, reaching a final conclusion of 29% that Davis is the killer.
The option that Don, Hae’s new boyfriend, was the killer was found to be highly unlikely. While there is place to doubt the validity of Don’s alibi, the evidence that suggests that Don’s alibi was false is not strong enough to incriminate him. Additionally, Don and Hae’s relationship was new, and there was no reported friction between them - both unlikely if Don was the murderer.
It is worth considering whether Jay himself was the murderer, but with no evidence other than his testimony, this is not enough to overcome the weak relationship that he had with with Hae and the apparent lack of motive.
The prosecutor’s case, that Adnan killed Hae around 2:30 PM and buried her at 7:00 PM, is easy to exclude even without a probabilistic analysis - a medical examination of her body shows that after death she was left in the same position for at least 6-8 hours without being moved. Amazingly, this is the version that the jury used to convict Adnan “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Since it is unlikely to have been Jay, Don, or Adnan, and only moderately likely that Roy Davis was the murderer, the most likely conclusion is that it was someone else.
Hae was killed by strangulation.
Hae's planned route took her by Roy Sharonnie Davis's house.
Jay led police to Hae's car six weeks after Hae's disappearance.
Jay told the police that Adnan admitted to killing Hae and showed him Hae's body in the trunk of her car.
Jay told the police that Adnan was wearing red gloves while burying Hae and driving her car.
Jay told police that before Hae's murder, Adnan told him that he would kill her (but it wasn't clear whether Adnan meant it or not).
Jay told the police that he helped Adnan get rid of Hae's car and bury Hae's body.
Jay changed key parts of his story a few times (adjusting times and locations, saying that Adnan showed him Hae's body in a variety of locations including in the Best Buy parking lot, at a friend's house, and near his grandmother's house, and eventually saying that he was actually paid to help Adnan bury Hae).
During Jay's interviews with the police, there are several occurrences in which Jay either pauses or loses focus. After an audible tapping noise, he regains his focus and apologizes and/or remembers specific details (such as street names that appear on police maps).
Jay described a conversation he had with Adnan while sitting next to him at a time that he and Adnan were supposedly driving in separate cars.
Fifteen years after Adnan's conviction, Jay maintained his basic story that he helped bury Hae after Adnan killed her (although he said that he had changed some details in his testimony because he was reluctant to be honest with the police).
Hae's body exhibited frontal
Hae's body tested negative for sperm and no sexual injuries were reported; her acid phosphate level was 136 U/L vaginally and 107 orally.
Hae was killed by strangulation.
Adnan's prints were found on a card in the glove compartment and on paper from the back seat of Hae's car, and his palm print was found on a map from the car (but nowhere else).
Approximately twenty sets of prints from Hae's car, including some fingerprints on the rear-view mirror, were not matched.
Photos of Hae's car when it was first reported discovered by police indicate that (some) grass underneath it was still green.
On January 13, Adnan asked Hae for a ride to his car after school.
Adnan was hysterical the morning after Hae's body was found (he was crying and saying "I can't believe she's dead").
In a letter he wrote from prison to
Hae disappeared within the first few weeks of her relationship with Don. There was no reported friction between Hae and Don during these weeks.
There was no reported friction between Jay and Hae in the weeks leading up to Hae's disappearance.
Adnan wrote "I'm going to kill" on the top of a note that he exchanged with a friend in class.
Adnan was seen (without Hae) on campus (in the library) at approximately 2:30 PM.
Did a friend talk to Hae around 2:45 regarding a wrestling match that was on January 13?
Adnan's cell phone was picked up by a cell tower near Leakin Park around 7:15 PM on January 13.
In an NCIC offline search for inquiries on the license plate of Hae's car, six inquiries were discovered (two on January 14, one on January 15, one on January 29, and two on February 4).
Adnan attended track practice, which took place from approximately 4:00 PM to 5:30-6:00 PM, on January 13, and he was not noticed to be late.
Adnan's cell phone log shows a short (5 seconds) incoming call at 2:36 PM. There are longer incoming calls recorded around 3:15 (20 seconds), 4:30 (3 minutes), 5:00 (20 seconds), and 5:15 (2 minutes).
Someone else (not Jay), who was not involved in the murder/burial.
On the evening of January 13, Adnan and Jay went to the apartment of a friend of Jay's to hang out and watch TV.
On the evening of January 13, Adnan was behaving oddly ("crazy" and "shady"). After Adnan was officially informed by the police of Hae's disappearance, he expressed concern about what he should say or do if and when the police would come to talk to him.
Hae's planned route took her by Roy Sharonnie Davis's house.
Less than a year before Hae's murder, another Woodlawn student,
Adnan's appeal (in 2000) dealt with technical matters without addressing his innocence.
Adnan's defense team did not ask for DNA testing of Hae's body (for the 2016 retrial).
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