EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Can Jay's Friend Chris Tell Us Anything About the Death of Hae Min Lee?

Yesterday, I took another look at Detective Ritz's notes of the pre-interview with Jay. Upon reflection, it seems like the notes are actually notes taken during both Jay's pre-interview and his recorded interview. One particular portion stood out:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 9.18.27 AM

The name Christopher/Chris should be familiar to those who listened to the Serial Podcast.

Chris was a friend of Jay and interviewed by Sarah for Episode 8 of the Serial Podcast. He was described by Sarah as "one of Jay's best friends" back in 1999. He's also the one who told this story:

I gave [Jay] a knife and then he tried to stab me with it, so we were literally like fighting outside of my cousin’s house and he’s like "yo, I’m not gonna stab you deep but you never been stabbed before, you need to know what it’s like," and I’m like "yo, I’m not gonna let you stab me."

The above notes by Ritz seem to correspond to page 29 of Jay's Jay's first recorded interview, in which he tells the detectives that Chris is the only person other than Jenn whom he told about Hae's murder. When Chris is interview by Sarah, he tells her that Jay indeed did tell him about the murder. In Chris's version, Jay told him that he was at a pool hall -- either VIP or Bluejays -- out on Route 40 and Catonsville when he got a call from Adnan, asking for his whereabouts. Adnan then showed up in either his car or Hae's car, and the trunk pop happened in the pool hall parking lot. According to Chris, Jay told him that 

Adnan confronted Hae about flirting with another guy, a car salesman and when she called Adnan crazy, he snapped and strangled her. And Chris said he heard this happened in the parking lot of the Woodlawn Public Library.

Chris seems like he would have been a pretty important person for both the prosecution and defense to interview. From the defense's perspective, Chris could have contradicted the version of events that Jay relayed at trial. From the prosecution's perspective, Chris could have testified that Jay told him about the murder before he (officially) talked to the police, which would have been an important prior consistent statement. 

Chris tells Sarah, however, that the "police never questioned him, not that he could remember anyway and he thought he’d remember something like that." That's interesting because we can see that Chris was on the State's interview list, surrounded by people who were interviewed:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 9.37.06 AM

It's also interesting because Detectives MacGillivary and Ritz were pretty keen on getting Chris's last name and phone number from Jay (page 29):

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 9.39.28 AM

But again, there's no record of an interview.

So, what do we make of Chris? I honestly don't know. I could see Chris misremembering the details of Don's job. On the other hand, Chris seems pretty certain about the library/pool hall scenario. In his second recorded interview, Jay said that he initially lied to the cops about the trunk pop occurring at a strip off of Edmondson Avenue because he was worried about there being cameras at the Best Buy. Fair enough, but why give Chris a third location for the trunk pop?

In his Intercept interview, Jay said that he lied about the trunk pop being at Best Buy because he didn't want to say that the trunk pop occurred outside his grandmother's house. As the above notes from Ritz make clear, however, Chris is seemingly mentioned right after Jay says that Adnan and he went to the grandmother's house to get a shovel to bury Hae. I don't see how that squares with Jay's  Intercept interview.

And so, that leaves us with Chris being another frustrating dead end. His version could be the true version of events. He could also be lying or mistaken. Or he could be telling the truth, with his version of the trunk pop lending further credence to the conclusion that none of Jay's versions can be trusted. As with many other people in this case, I wish that he were interviewed back in 1999.



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I wish they had been properly questioned as well and that the interviews were documented by professionals, like they should have been. So many botched actions that led to a murder conviction. Commonsensical people can see how unreal this all is. It's like a circus.

Posted by: Traci | Jul 8, 2015 7:39:44 AM

FWIW They don't really match up with the tower pings either. There's not really anything in that area, aside from the 4:27pm call and the 4:58pm calls which ping L654C, an area between Jay's house and Westview Mall.

Posted by: Andrew | Jul 8, 2015 7:51:14 AM

What I find interesting is that it places the murder scene at the library, basically at Woodlawn. This I think complicates Adnans alibi's. No? Again supports my theory that he killed her and dumped the body before calling Jay. One could not imagine he moved the body into the trunk in the library parking lot. Thanks for these posts they are very interesting.

Posted by: Paul | Jul 8, 2015 8:00:54 AM

A bit of an aside, but did Chris version of events to Serial square with Jen s police interview? Given that they were the only two who knew about the murder before police involvement, we should expect a degree of consistency that could suggest credibility or accuracy.

Posted by: anonynon | Jul 8, 2015 8:07:46 AM

Traci: Agreed. Both the prosecution and defense clearly should have interviewed people like Chris and Jeff G.

Andrew: I suppose the way that Chris’s story could work is if Adnan killed Hae in the Woodlawn Library, made the 2:36 P.M. call from the library, drove up to the pool hall, and was back around Woodlawn by 3:15 P.M. I’m not sure whether that’s doable.

Paul: Yes, Chris’s story could be consistent with Adnan seeing Asia at the library. I really wish that the police interviewed Chris back in 1999 and that Jay was confronted with his story. I don’t know what to make of it.

anonynon: Jenn says that Jay was at her house when Jay got the call from Adnan. She also says that the murder took place at Best Buy. In fact, she's the first person to say that the murder took place at Best Buy.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 8, 2015 8:11:26 AM

I have listened to the episode about lividity a couple of times and also the interview with Dr. Hlavaty, and I have a question that doesn’t seem to be answered in either. Are you saying that the lividity evidence proves beyond a doubt that HML’s body could not have been in the trunk of her car from the afternoon of 1/13 until her burial in Leakin Park (whenever that was on the 13th or the early morning of the 14th)? The autopsy report indicates that “Lividity was present and fixed on the anterior surface of the body, except in areas exposed to pressure.” Do we know that “anterior surface” includes legs in addition to “anterior-upper chest and face”? Is it impossible to arrange a body in the trunk of HML’s car such that it would show the lividity pattern described in the autopsy report. Further, isn’t it possible that the body was buried in a prone position before lividity was fixed and later disturbed? Thanks for your good work.

Posted by: Geoff | Jul 8, 2015 8:40:01 AM

The Woodlawn Public Library, Best Buy parking lot, grandma's house, a pool hall out on Route 40 and Catonsville. That's a lot of trunk popping. While reading this post, I had a horrible image of Jay driving around the area popping the trunk to show Hae's body (to friends??) and asking for help in burying her.

Posted by: Therese | Jul 8, 2015 8:48:01 AM

Curious your thoughts. Assume Hae was place on her side in the trunk from basically 2:30 to 7pm... Then dumped at Leakin park face down until midnight or a bit after. Is it possible the lividity would match the coroners findings?

Posted by: Paul | Jul 8, 2015 8:50:25 AM

@Andrew, if the cops were unaware that the cell towers were directional, then they would think that L654 would cover the two pool halls near Jay's home.

Posted by: Sue | Jul 8, 2015 9:00:03 AM

Josh, Jay’s former 21 year-old co-worker at the porn store (interviewed on Serial) also thinks he remembers the pool hall as the trunk pop location, which, if he’s right, means that for whatever reason, Jay may have wanted people to believe the trunk pop happened there before the police interviews happened, and before the “Best Buy” location was introduced. It’s interesting that the pool hall locale never came up in police interviews.

Either the pool hall addition was the truth or a diversion, but whichever it was, Jay felt it would be believable that he would be hanging out there. (Otherwise, people would have said, “Jay, there’s no pool hall near here” or “Wait, you were at a pool hall? That doesn’t make sense.”) Was it ever confirmed whether or not there was a pool hall near the Edmondson strip or anywhere in that area in ’99? Perhaps it was a regular hangout of Jay’s or someone connected to this crime. Perhaps the people who worked at this pool hall might remember seeing Jay around then or may remember a conversation or some activity in the parking lot. Or, it could have been just anther one of Jay’s many red herrings (Like the Patapsco State Park visit). Either way, it seems like a location that should have at least been looked into back then. All these overlooked leads and details really drive home how overstretched the Baltimore detectives must have been. It seems like truly investigating a crime and following up on leads is a luxury they felt they couldn’t afford.

Posted by: Shaun | Jul 8, 2015 9:01:55 AM

Listening to Jays interview, he says it took between 20 and 25 minutes to dig a 6in hole to bury Hae. Doesn't that seem like aN obscene amount of time to dig such a shallow hole? Consider the adrenaline of the moment and the fear of being caught, and the fact that 6in can be dug with one scoop of a shovel and it's just another inconsistency. Give me another guy 30min to dig a hole meant to bury a body and I guarantee I can go a lot deeper than 6 inches.

Posted by: Sonny | Jul 8, 2015 9:28:40 AM

Geoff: I can’t speak to whether Hae’s body could have been in a position in the trunk consistent with frontal lividity. I do know that Jay said that he could see Hae’s lips and that she was “pretzeled up” in the trunk. I also know that he said in the Intercept interview that her legs were tucked behind her. That wouldn’t be consistent with frontal lividity.

It’s also possible she was buried face down before being repositioned to her side. It seems unlikely to me, though, that she’d be repositioned that way.

Therese: I think he has 7-8 different versions.

Paul: In that scenario, she should have had some side lividity.

Sue: Good point.

Shaun: Good catch. From Episode 12 of Serial: “He said when he heard in the podcast that Chris had mentioned the pool hall thing, that sounded right to him but he can’t say for sure. Josh says he also had the impression, like Chris, that it had all gone down later in the day, not mid afternoon.”

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 8, 2015 9:34:19 AM

It is really bizarre that the prosecution in HML murder case seems to have persistently avoided verifying and corroborating the testimony of their key witnesses. They didn't contact Chris to verify Jay's version of events. They didn't contact Mark P. to verify Jay & Jenn's versions of events. Is this normal procedure in a murder investigation, that the law enforcement/prosecution accept someone's testimony without needing to corroborate it?

Posted by: Lagertha | Jul 8, 2015 9:42:06 AM

I've always thought that story pointed to a side of Jay that says, "I'm going to strangle Hae because I've never strangled anyone, and I want to see what that's like." Coupled with Adnan's closeness with Stephanie and Stephanie being "Jay's whole world," it seems more and more like Jay (and perhaps Jen?) did the deed without any of Adnan's involvement on the day.

Posted by: Annie Onymous | Jul 8, 2015 9:59:02 AM

Professor, As to your reply to Geoff about Hae being "pretzeled up" in her trunk, it actually could, I think. If Hae was placed face down with head to the right far back trunk and lower body diagonal down toward near left front trunk, face turned toward the right (with right side of face exposed upward), and lower legs bent back at the knees with heels to butt and crossed at the ankles (pretzeled), I bet a small person like Hae may fit face down in a trunk and still look pretzeled and still have lips partially exposed if viewing from outside? Does that make sense?

Posted by: fourhens | Jul 8, 2015 10:28:34 AM

Couldn't all these people who say they were told stuff before Jay was questioned just not know when Jay was first questioned. Couldn't Jenn have heard details (ie strangled) from a friend of hers who's dad was a cop? Was NHRNC a cop's daughter?

Posted by: Sarah hopewell | Jul 8, 2015 10:30:28 AM

sonny - it gets better. Hae may not have been buried at all but placed in a natural depression and covered with leaves, says Rabia. His story is nonsense. He also now says that he did not help bury her at all.

Posted by: Anonynon | Jul 8, 2015 10:56:07 AM

He didn't help bury her b/c she was not buried, just covered with rocks and debris/leaves and probably some lingering snow. You cant dig at all in January. Its frozen.

Posted by: fourhens | Jul 8, 2015 11:07:00 AM

It's probably why "picks" were mentioned. The shovels used could very well have been snow shovels for all we know.

Posted by: fourhens | Jul 8, 2015 11:08:35 AM

This case is driving me crazy! What happened to Jeff G? Was he murdered? If so, maybe it was to keep him quiet?

Posted by: A J | Jul 8, 2015 11:30:44 AM

Shovels were more than likely not used to bury Hae because she wasn’t buried, she was dumped in a depression and lightly covered with debris which doesn’t require a shovel or a pickaxe.

Commentators, especially Redditors, sure are going out of their way (curiously) to pin this on Adnan come hell or high water even when the State’s case, based on Jay’s ludicrous & sloppily coached perjury, has been proven to be an absurd, concocted farce.

Jay’s a pathological liar and he is not reliable in any way. Nothing he says or has said can be believed. You can’t pick and choose what is real versus fabricated with Jay’s statements without more concrete evidence. Chris is obviously a liar too. Birds of a feather. And before you say Adnan was one of those birds who flocked together with Jay, it’s clear he and Jay were not friends and instead their connection was merely a weed connection. I’ll have a blog post and/or podcast up shortly (Jay’s a Wild(S) and Crazy Guy) about this. I had a similar relationship when I was Adnan’s age — a weed relationship with a shady character that I wouldn’t call a friend but nonetheless we ( me and a few other friends as well) still hung out with this shady guy but always with weed as the glue and catalyst.

Posted by: Cold N Holefield | Jul 8, 2015 12:14:30 PM

Lagertha: It’s definitely not standard operating procedure.

Annie: I wouldn’t be shocked if I learned that Jay was involved or uninvolved.

fourhens: I would love to see an experiment done.

Sarah: Of course, there’s the question of when Jay was first questioned.

Anoynon and fourhens: Yes, there was a natural depression in the ground.

AJ: I’m not sure what happened to Jeff G.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 8, 2015 12:56:54 PM

Jay states that he doesn't have a cellphone so how did Adnan get in touch with Jay at a pool hall then have to ask Jay where he is?

Posted by: Mia | Jul 8, 2015 1:54:50 PM

Oh my how this case boggles my mind. Just when I think I have a viable theory I hear some detail that makes me realize the theory is about as plausible as Jay’s story! I was convinced for a while that Jay completely fabricated his involvement with this case. That he knew someone that was actually involved in the crime (e.g. perhaps Davis or Moore) and got enough details to insert himself into the story and make himself seem important to his friends. On Serial there were many interviews in which people close to him admit he is a liar, a teller or tall tales, and that no one believes him. BUT then, there’s Jen…how do you explain Jen? She would have no reason to go along with Jay’s fabrication and also implicate herself in covering up for the crime. This leads me to think Jen and/or Jay must have been involved in the actual crime. And they are completely adamant about giving each other an alibi on the 13th from approx. 3:30-4pm timeframe, even though this is contrary to the State’s case. Why is that? I think this must be the critical time of the crime and they have to put themselves together at that time to avoid anyone uncovering where they actually were. We know there is an inconsistency in their story already when Jay claims to be at Jen’s house at 3:21pm but yet is calling Jen’s house from Adnan’s cell phone. That leads me to believe that Jay was really not at Jen’s house at that time. I don’t know, this is just me rambling in circular arguments, which I do daily. I’d love to hear any thoughts about this.

Posted by: Briechen | Jul 8, 2015 2:32:32 PM

Do what know what year Nissan Sentra Hae had? I swear I am going to find one and climb in the trunk to see.

Posted by: fourhens | Jul 8, 2015 3:55:03 PM

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