Serial Episode 6: The Worst of It

Serial Episode 6: The Worst of It October 31, 2014

Nah. He actually can't remember.
Nah. He actually can’t remember.

You may think that today was a particularly bad day for those of us on #TeamAdnan. You would be wrong.

While episode 6 promised to bring the most damning evidence against Adnan, none of it was new to me – I already knew about Neighbor Boy, “Kathy” and Nisha. Here is how I break them down:

  • “Kathy”: neutral to the case
  • Nisha: potentially damaging to Adnan
  • Neighbor Boy: potentially damaging to Jay



Let’s start with “Kathy” and why I think her testimony is benign and rather meaningless. What we have here is essentially her description of a stoned-out-of-his-mind Adnan, literally slumped over from being high, and acting weird and paranoid on the phone. Not having the requisite experience myself to be able to confirm that smoking pot leads to paranoia and memory loss, I present exhibit A and exhibit B.

As God is my witness, these look like delicious baklava rolls to me
As God is my witness, these look like delicious pistachio baklava rolls to me

According to Adnan, he recalls visiting Kathy’s place only once ever with Jay (he didn’t know her personally, she was Jenn’s friend, not his) but can’t remember exactly what night that was. He accepts it was the night of January 13th because Kathy says so. He does recall that the time he went to Kathy’s he had smoked his first blunt. I didn’t know what that exactly meant but he explained that it was not a little bit of pot as found in a joint, it was whole load of it stuffed into a cigar wrapper. A lot of pot, more pot than he had ever done before. And it stoned him out of this world. Which explains why he was either asleep, or really quiet because he was completely out of it at her place. Slumped over is not a good sign.

"Kathy's" statement to Det on March 9, 1999
“Kathy’s” statement to police on March 9, 1999

Kathy remembers one particular call Adnan received that night and recalls him saying something to this effect:

March 9, 1999 statement of "Kathy" to police
March 9, 1999 statement of “Kathy” to police

Right after that call, Adnan walks out of her place without a word and Jay follows him. Then this:

More from "Kathy's" initial statement
More from “Kathy’s” initial statement

There isn’t necessarily anything nefarious in Kathy’s observation of Adnan, not even after they left the apartment and loitered in the car for a minute or so. Adnan seemed to be acting consistent with someone who was very high, and paranoid because he had to go somewhere, be somewhere, and needed to get rid of his high. I know exactly where he had to be, but will get to that later.

Its important to remember that this statement was taken after Adnan was arrested, and that arrest would undoubtedly color Kathy’s perception of events that night. This is an actual phenomenon called the “misinformation effect“, where post-event information can distort a person’s memory.  In this case, it seems clear that Kathy suddenly found the entire evening shady and suspicious having learned of Adnan’s arrest and that Hae’s murder took place the day he was in her apartment.

Which begs the question of why the police didn’t question her BEFORE they arrested Adnan? They already had Jenn and Jay’s statements that mentioned the visit to Kathy, and they could have interviewed her before she could be effected by Adnan’s arrest.

So I’ll dispense with Kathy now because I don’t think her testimony adds anything damning or exonerating to the case. It was the first time she met Adnan, he was high as a kite and acting like it, and no one disputes it, not even Adnan. The phone call could have meant something, but if he was stoned into paranoia, it probably meant little to nothing. He sat with Jay in the car for a minute and drove off because he had to go somewhere important.  Jay says it was to go bury the body, but I can’t imagine that anyone who had just killed someone (much less someone as bright as Adnan) would decide to get totally lit instead of keeping their wits and actually going to take care of the body.


This is Sarah’s “smoking gun”.

Hello there, it is butt speaking.
Hello there, this is butt speaking.

Sarah is spooked by a 3:32pm call that lasted a little over 2 minutes to a friend of Adnan’s named Nisha. Nisha is not a friend of Jay’s. Nisha is a cute new girl Adnan met on New Years Eve, someone he’s trying to get with.

According to Jay, Adnan made this call post-murder and handed Jay the phone to say hey to Nisha. A really weird and odd thing to do if you are a criminal mastermind and want to avoid being placed anywhere but school during that time.

Nisha recalls that she once spoke to Jay on the phone after Adnan had called her. But it was a time when Adnan was visiting Jay at work at the video store – a job that Jay didn’t get until a couple of weeks after the murder:

Screenshot 2014-10-31 at 12.24.15 AM
Statement of Jay’s supervisor at video shop

While it’s possible that Nisha dreamt that she spoke to Jay while he was working at a video shop, or that Jay and Adnan actually called her on the 13th and lied about being a video shop, it’s unlikely. Essentially because Nisha had no reason to even know where Jay worked unless she was told, and she couldn’t have been told that until he was actually working there – unless both Adnan and Jay were able to look into the future and see that Jay would be working in the video shop two weeks later. Suffice it to say that it is pretty much definite that the call Nisha remembers happened after January 24th.

So then what do we make of the 3:32 call on Jan 13th? Its right there, mocking us. Here are the possibilities:

1) Adnan was with Jay and actually called Nisha

2) Adnan was at school and Jay butt-dialed Nisha by mistake

In case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m going with theory #2. This was Adnan’s phone, one my brother described as “almost like a cordless phone”:

It was cool in 1999. Also, flip and slide phones were mostly a thing of the future.
It was cool in 1999. Also, flip and slide phones were mostly a thing of the future.

This is how I know it was his phone, a screenshot of the service plan:

Nokia serial number 6160, ta da
Nokia serial number 6160, ta da

Now that we know it was the kind of phone susceptible to being butt-dialed, a note to say that Adnan maintained from the beginning that Nisha’s number was on speed dial – in other words, even more likely to have been dialed via the butt. We do, however, have to pause to consider that the call was over 2 minutes long.  If it was a mistaken dial, why did it last so long? Possibilities:

1) There was actually voicemail on the line, even though Nisha thinks there wasn’t. Because in an era of actual physical answering machines, a VM service was relatively new and in the absence of such machine Nisha may not have realized that they even had VM on that line.

2) Someone picked up and just listened for a couple minutes to figure out what was going on (Saad once butt dialed me at 3:45 am and I listened for a good seven minutes to figure out what the hell was going on before hanging up. A part of me was hoping for a gotcha moment – club music in the background, the giggles of a young woman. No such luck).

3) It just rang and rang and rang

Back then, even when the phone just rang and rang, you got billed for it. Minutes were precious like that in 1999.  So the two minute call could literally have been two minutes of ringing with no one answering, until and unless Jay realized the phone was on and ended the call.

So do I think it’s a smoking gun? No. I think it was a butt-dial that probably just rang and rang because it was the middle of a work and school day.  Jay is lying about talking to Nisha on the 13th because the only time she ever talked to him was after January 24th. That and both Jay and Jenn said, repeatedly, that Jay was at Jenn’s house until around 3:45pm that day.


I remember the first time I saw this report:

This report has kept me up at night. Many many nights.
This report has kept me up at night. Many many nights.

I think I ran around the room waving this document, head spinning, heart pounding, yammering “eureka!” to myself.  I had never seen this report before. It had not been introduced at trial. Neither had Neighbor Boy, hencewith to be referred to as “NB”.

Here is what I deduced:

1) Laura, the girl who told her father, and Dave, the father who called the police, were not messing around. They had not made this up. This conversation really took place and they took it seriously enough to report it to the cops.

2) If NB was telling the truth and Adnan had shown him the body of Hae in a trunk, NB would have been a prize witness for the state. But he was not called to testify. Did this mean that Jay had shown NB the body of Hae in the trunk and because that would just mess up the case against Adnan, the state never pursued it?

Turns out I was off about why NB never testified. Sarah found out what happened. You heard it in episode 6 – the police questioned NB and he denied that conversation or actual event ever took place. That was the end of that lead.

I’m just not willing to dismiss it as easily. Here’s why:

In April of 1999, it was not public information that Hae’s body was ever in the trunk of her car. That is a narrative that only Jay asserted to the police while describing the “trunk pop”.  It becomes public information during the first trial in December of 1999. NB must have gotten that information from Jay, which is no stretch because they’re close childhood friends who lived less than two miles apart.  They are still friends and interact on Facebook to this day. I don’t think NB has any involvement with the death of Hae, but I do think he knows more than he’s letting on.


(I’m going to explain something that generally only observant Muslims or the kids of observant Muslims know. If you aren’t either of these, find someone who is and they’ll back me up)

In case you missed it earlier, January 13, 1999 fell during the month of Ramadan, the month in which observant Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down. It’s only during this month that special night prayers called “taraweh” are held in nearly every mosque across the world. The taraweh prayers begin shortly after the fifth daily prayer (Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day) called Isha. Yes that’s right. There are more prayers held right after the routine prayers. Ramadan is no joke.

Now the last ten nights of Ramadan are particularly important. So much so that even Muslims that may skip out going to taraweh during the beginning of the month will do their best to trek it to the mosque in the last ten days. January 13, 1999 fell in those last ten days.

In a household like Adnan’s, who had a deeply devout father who literally would spend the entire last ten days and nights of Ramadan in the mosque (I mean literally – its called itikhaaf and it means secluding yourself to worship), I am pretty sure that Adnan was expected to make an appearance at the mosque for those ten nights. He may not have been expected to stay the entire time, but I highly doubt if he could get away with not showing up. Plus, because of his fathers seclusion for those ten days, it was Adnan’s job to take food to him.

Jan 2000 prayer times, would be close to 1999 times. Isha prayer is a little after 6, taraweh would start around 6:30-6:45pm
Jan 2000 prayer times, would be similar to 1999 times. Isha prayer is at 6:11, taraweh would start around 15-20 minutes later.

So, in his terribly stoned state, I imagine Adnan realized he had to get to the mosque for taraweh or to pick up food for his dad, and knew it would not look good. That’s probably what he was mumbling about in Kathy’s apartment when he said he had to get somewhere.


And that is the worst of it. All of it. That is the entirety of the case against Adnan Syed. A barely credible state’s witness, cell phone tower evidence that is proven to be unreliable, and weird little coincidental pieces, none of which put Adnan with Hae at any time in the day, none of which provide physical evidence tying him to her murder. But enough question marks to make it seem like maybe, just maybe Jay was telling the truth. But which, without Jay’s story, were meaningless.

Which takes me back to an earlier point I made. It’s not that these random incidents supported Jay’s story. That’s not what happened here. What happened was Jay’s story changed and changed and changed until it supported these random incidents. In a theory of how Adnan could be innocent discussed vigorously in this Reddit thread someone remarks “it takes an incredible amount of coincidence and risky gambles on Jay’s behalf for it to make any sense”. 

But it doesn’t. It wasn’t risky at all. Jay had six weeks after Hae was killed, and numerous encounters with both Adnan and the phone records, to get the “spine” of his story just right enough. Six weeks to figure out how stoned Adnan was that day, how much Adnan remembered, and enough exposure to the phone records to eliminate Patapsco Park and other things from his ever-changing narrative. It was no coincidence. It was calculated.




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