Brow Beat

In the Second Part of His First Interview, Jay Wilds Says Serial “Demonized” Him

Part 1 of Natasha Vargas-Cooper’s interview with Jay Wilds, made notorious by the podcast Serial, was published by the Intercept Monday. Part 2 was posted Tuesday afternoon. In this new installment—doled out carefully to much fanfare in a way evocative of Serial itself—Wilds steps back from his convoluted timeline to discuss twin themes: what it was like testifying against Adnan in court, and what it was like not testifying against Adnan for Sarah Koenig.

But first, Wilds clarifies that he did not make the anonymous call to the police fingering Adnan for Hae Min Lee’s murder. He speculates that a religious leader at the mosque may have been behind the tip-off. The Intercept only identifies this man as “Mr. B,” though Vargas-Cooper notes that he did, as Wilds says, “plead the fifth during the grand jury testimony,” according to two separate sources. Redditors have, of course, already attempted to identify who Wilds is likely referring to.

After that, Wilds’ answers sound like what anyone would say after making the choice to put away a murderer (or, depending on your point of view on this case, someone you are merely claiming is a murderer). Of testifying as a state witness, Wilds says: “It’s necessary for me to sleep at night. I don’t know. It keeps going around and around and around, like I’m worried God is going to strike me down. I can’t have this in the back of my mind that I’m going to get a lightning bolt or something.” And he reveals deep remorse and shame over his involvement with burying the girl’s body: “Damn near got suicidal at one point.”

We also learn that the mother of Wilds’ then girlfriend, Stephanie, spit in his face when his role in the crime came to light. Asked what he would have done differently, Wilds wonders, confusingly, whether “me not moving in Adnan’s circle of people would have saved her life. Like, I don’t know if I sold more weed or less weed that Hae would still be alive.” It’s a weird moment of misplaced guilt that either captures the helplessness of living through a classmate’s murder or strikes a false note, as if Wilds were trying to seem more sympathetic by assuming responsibility for something far beyond his control. Likewise, Wilds tells Vargas-Cooper at one point that, though he doesn’t remember Adnan calling him “pathetic,” “nothing like that would be able to get the better of me.” Are we hearing righteous anger against a killer or competitive hatred?     

Though it doesn’t have any bearing on the facts of the crime, it is nonetheless fascinating to read about Sarah Koenig’s attempts to contact Wilds as she put Serial together, and what happened, from his perspective, when she showed up at his door in California around August or September. (On the podcast, even Koenig acknowledged the surprise visit was “a dick move.”) Wilds describes the Serial crew as “harassing people at their jobs” throughout the summer, saying that he didn’t want to jeopardize his family’s privacy. Still, he invited the podcast creators inside until his wife and kids got too upset for the conversation to continue. Afterward, he offers, “She [Koenig] kept saying, ‘It’s going to be in your interest to talk to me,’ and that just started to feel like a threat, like if I didn’t talk to her it was going to be bad news for me.” Most Serial listeners are perhaps not used to thinking of Koenig as an ominous presence, though a subsequent letter from Koenig that Wilds supplies speaks well of her intentions: “On paper, in the trial transcript, you’re two-dimensional,” she writes. “But in real life, of course you’re more than just a state’s witness. You’re a person who went through a traumatic thing. To hear you call yourself a ‘scoundrel with scruples’—that made me want to understand who you were then, and who you are now.”

Wilds repeatedly uses the word “demonized” to discuss what Serial did to him—and perhaps he’s not wrong. “I feel like if I did talk to her, it would have given her twice as much ammo to twist my words,” he tells Vargas-Cooper. Even staying silent, he says, “everything’s changed” in the wake of the podcast. “I’m trying to clear my name,” he finishes. “I’m worried for the safety of my family. I think the truth is important, and I’m trying to tell it.”

Part 3 of the interview will apparently be published tomorrow.