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Key Witness From Serial Gives First Interview, Offers Yet Another Timeline of Events

Adnan Syed, center, sits in front of Hae Min Lee during their high school days.

Photo courtesy of This American Life

Jay Wilds, the key witness in the state of Maryland’s case against Adnan Syed, has given an exclusive interview to Natasha Vargas-Cooper of The Intercept. Syed’s conviction for the murder of Hae Min Lee was the subject of the This American Life spinoff podcast Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig, which aired this fall. Wilds declined Koenig’s requests to speak on the podcast, though the two did talk and she reported on that conversation. Koenig also tore holes in the timeline Wilds offered at trial and finished the podcast on a note of intense skepticism, saying that she would not have voted to convict Syed if she had been on the jury. Wilds told Vargas-Cooper he felt “unfairly depicted” by Koenig, and that he wants to correct the record. The first section of his multi-part interview appeared on The Intercept today.

In this new telling, Wilds cleaves to certain details from the podcast and alters others. He reiterates that he agreed to help Adnan bury Hae’s body because he feared getting in trouble for petty drug-dealing. He characterizes Adnan as “a little pompous, a little arrogant … really driven as far as academics … more uptight than the other Muslim kids that I knew.” He and Adnan weren’t close, he says, echoing Syed’s own account of their relationship: “There was never a real friendship.” He remembers Lee, meanwhile, as “independent” and “mature.” Though Wilds tells Vargas-Cooper it isn’t his job to speculate on Syed’s motives, he can’t help doing so a little bit anyway, positing that the man he helped convict “just couldn’t come to grips with being a loser and failing. He failed; he lost the girl.”

Avid armchair detectives will no doubt be poring particularly over the bottom half of the interview, in which Wilds maps out yet another timeline for the events of Jan. 13, 1999, the day Hae Min Lee disappeared. But this latest version of events is confusing rather than clarifying, another who-the-heck-knows account superimposed over recalcitrant cell phone records and diverging testimonies. Redditors have already pounced on seeming inconsistencies and highlighted new twists; for instance, Wilds now says he first saw Lee’s body not in front of Best Buy, but outside of his grandmother’s house. And perhaps Syed was actually in possession of his cell phone for much of the day?

Here’s a link to the full text. If you can make head or tails of this latest swerve in the Serial universe, let us know.

Read more in Slate about Serial.