Split the Moon

Rabia Chaudry

Page 4 of 17

So Hard to Say Goodbye

Let me start by saying Eid mubarak to all of the Muslims celebrating the end of 29 days of summer fasting! Wishing you a peaceful and blessed day, full of family and friends, laughter and food. And gifts. Or gift cards. Cash ain’t so bad either.

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See, when I was a kid, and well through my young adult years, my mother repeated the same story every year towards the end of Ramadan – that her grandmother would weep for hours and hours as the last few days and nights of Ramadan passed.  Having prepared her home before the month of fasting as if she would be receiving a special guest, when that guest (Ramadan, in case you’re not following) was ready to leave, she just couldn’t handle it.

Frankly, I wasn’t buying it. Sad to see a month of no food or drink from sunup to sundown end? Not me, no sir. I almost didn’t believe the story, thinking my mom was making it up to make me feel awful for not loving deprivation so much or my great-grandma was putting people on. I guess I was wrong.

Now that I’m a certified grown-up, I get it.  Because Ramadan ended last night.

It’s all over and though I can have a cup of hot, strong, sweet tea right now, WHILE THE SUN SHINES, I actually I feel deeply sad. This stuff hit me about a decade ago, when I first realized that crap, I do really miss Ramadan when its over. Even though we literally go 16-18 hours without a drop to drink or a morsel to eat in the summers, the days go by fast (amazing what the body can adjust to) and the nights are really short because they’re packed with friends, family, prayers, food, and its the most communally spiritual thing that happens all year round.

Imagine if you will a month of Christmas mass and feasting with friends every night. You’d miss it too.

But today begins our three day holiday called Eid which very creatively means “Celebration/Feast/Holiday”. We have two Eids in the year, one at the end of Ramadan, and one a couple of months later when the annual pilgrimage called the Hajj happens. The Hajj, in case you’re not familiar, is a commemoration mostly of the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael.

Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days, depending on if the new moon is sighted. That’s because, like the Jewish calendar, the Islamic calendar is lunar.  The tradition is to wait until night to see if new moon is spotted. If it is, the month is over, new month starts that night, and the next day you celebrate Eid. Of course in the West this can get tricky, especially because the we all want to take time off of work or school for it. But imagine explaining to your employer, “well you see, I don’t know EXACTLY when I’ll be taking the day off, but let me just take a look at the moon and get back to you”. Having said that, not all Muslims are celebrating Eid today, some have said “NOPE DID NOT SEE THE MOON”, and will be fasting one extra day.*

 

Now as odd as fasting seems to Western sensibilities, it is a fairly integral part of most orthodox faith traditions, both Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and non-Abrahamic (Hinduism, Buddhism). There is nary a religion that doesn’t have a season or days of fasting in some shape or the other. The point in all traditions is not just to starve yourself. In fact, that is the least of the goals. Its really to detach yourself from worldly things, discipline your body and spirit, refrain not only from sustenance but also from being “bad” – cursing, fighting, being miserly.  Its a time when you’re meant to do your best, in prayer, in charity, in whatever you can.

Of course, we’re all human, some days are good, some aren’t so hot. I haven’t cursed (online) all Ramadan and for that I’ll go ahead and pat myself on the back.

Now other than the fact that I’m doing a little 4-1-1 about Ramadan because it just ended, I’m also doing it because the day Hae Min Lee disappeared, January 13, 1999, also fell in Ramadan. Again, because we’re on a lunar calendar, Ramadan moves around, and that year it fell in the winter months.

Like many observant Muslims, or those who come from observant families, Adnan also went to the mosque pretty much every night in Ramadan. We have special night prayers that only happen in Ramadan called “taraweh”.  On the 13th, it seems he was also at the mosque. But folks say, hold up, wait a minute, his phone called all sorts of numbers all evening.  HOW COULD HE DO THAT AT THE MOSQUE, HMMMMM???

From the Serial website, calls made from Adnan's phone on 1/13/99

From the Serial website, calls made from Adnan’s phone on 1/13/99

Well he could. Because taraweh prayers are like that, there are breaks between prayers almost every 5-10 minutes or so depending on how fast or slow the Imam is reciting the scripture. People stay as long as they feel like it, until the end of prayers, or halfway, or just for a few rounds of prayer. This not like a church service where you have to take a seat and stay till the end.

As an example, I took some video a couple of weeks ago from the gorgeous new Turkish mosque built close to my home. It may look like I’m somewhere in Istanbul, but I’m actually in Maryland. FYI, most mosques in the US do not look this fancy, Erdogan had $100 million to throw at this new mosque project, and I’m just lucky its close by.

In the video, I’m first in the mosque courtyard then I wander inside. Once inside you’ll see men praying towards the front, women are praying to the left and right of me, and then all of the sudden, when that portion of prayer is done, a loud sing-songy things happens during which people get a couple minutes break, or make a break for it themselves and head out.

As you can see, beyond the breaks, people are generally always wandering in and out, talking, and yes, using their phones as the prayers are going on. If I was a 17 year old who just got a new cellphone in an era where few of my friends had them, you can be darned sure I was using it – even at the mosque.

In an earlier episode of Undisclosed we discussed the number noted as “Jenn’s pager”, which we now think may not have been her pager at all (Jay repeatedly refers to the “owner” of the number as a he and Not-Her-Real-Name-Cathy doesn’t recognize it though she should if its her close friend’s pager).  If you’ll scroll back up to the call log you’ll see that number is actually not called all day, its only called 7pm and later, which is when Adnan is already back with his phone after track.  Jenn’s house is repeatedly called during the time Jay probably had the phone exclusively, most likely because he was talking to either Jenn or Mark at home, and he was never even there that day.

Which means its not necessary that Jay was the one calling that number. It could have been Adnan, since it is likely not Jenn’s pager at all. For all we know, Adnan may have already dropped Jay off at home (like Jay said)  around 7pm, headed home, and then went to the mosque with his dad around 7:30 like Uncle testified.

That’s one possibility. The other is that it was Jay making those calls, which also works because in the winter the prayers start around 8pm and last till about 10:30pm. Adnan could have headed to the mosque shortly after 8 too. Uncle may have been off by 40 minutes.

WHERE TO START?

We’ve discussed a lot on Undisclosed since I last blogged, including the following seminal points:

  • The police honed in on Adnan very early on in the investigation, before they ever spoke to Jay
  • They spoke to Jay before they spoke to Jenn, who then later “sent them back” to Jay
  • The Enehey Group, which wrote the deeply Islamophobic memo, was helping the police, having been retained by Hae’s uncle, with the missing person’s investigation and may have been (in my estimation) what pushed the cops/prosecution to go with the “Muslim honor killing” theory. Once the cops had a suspect and motive, all they had to do was build the case.
  • They used the DEA to get phone records, but selectively. No records for Jenn or Jay’s home, Jenn’s pager, Phil, or Patrick. But a random Pakistani lady who was helping Adnan’s parents get his school records? Yep, her records got pulled. Sorry Aunty Alfreda, you didn’t deserve that.
  • When the defense PI went to interview Stephanie, Jay and Phil showed up at her house and were turned away. The statement she gave to the PI that night changed by the next time he spoke with her, probably because Jay had gotten to her and asked her to change it. Interesting that she did not repeat the additional new detail in her story (in which she says she called Adnan’s phone on 1/13/99 between 4:15 and 5:30pm and he was with Jay) when she gave a statement to the police the following month. She was never called to testify at trial either. My theory? She was “leaned on” by Jay to tell the PI about a call that never happened, then refused to repeat the lie to cops later.  Thus, not useful at trial. Because if she had told the cops she made that call and Adnan and Jay were together, damn skippy she would have been a prosecution witness. Thank you Stephanie for refusing to lie to the police. If only Jay and Jenn were like you.
  • Hae used an ATM that was across the street from where Roy Sharonnie Davis lived. Davis had killed Jada Lambert the year prior, another Woodlawn High senior, but wasn’t caught for many years. So in January 1999, he was a free murderer in close proximity to a place that Hae would have passed on her way to pick up her cousin, and a place she had stopped in the past.
  • A woman, Mrs. S. had a “vision from God” that Hae’s body was in Leakin Park, was killed by two men in a car, the driver tall and slim with dreadlocks, 18-19, wearing tan jeans and timberlands. The daughter of “God vision” lady went to Woodlawn high, also a senior like Hae.  Weird? Yes.
  • Adnan was questioned for at least 6 hours without an attorney. He waived his right to an attorney initially, but after 6 hours the police got nothing from him. The attorneys retained by his family immediately began attempting to speak to their juvenile client only to be blocked over and over again by the cops.
  • Adnan was charged as an adult when Detective Mac added a year to his age in the arrest warrant, and making the case a capital offense eligible for the death penalty. There is no bail for capital offenses, therefore at the first bail hearing the judge denied bail based on a faulty charging document that wasn’t corrected.
  • At the second bail hearing Adnan was denied bail because prosecutor Vicky Walsh made the disgusting and totally false argument that there was a pattern of Pakistani men killing their girlfriends and fleeing the country. Despite having 600 letters of support, no priors, a minor with an impeccable record, Adnan was denied bail again. Thank you, you lying sack of crap Vicky Walsh. May karma forever bite you in the ass.
Vicki now works for the Baltimore County police department, which probably explains why we can't get any documents from them despite numerous public information requests. Whaddup Vicki?

Vicki now works for the Baltimore County police department, which probably explains why we can’t get any documents from them despite numerous public information requests. Whaddup Vicki?

WHAT I CAN’T SHAKE

…is the burial site, lividity and Hae’s car. There is a lot that was manipulated by the cops and state to nail Adnan (and we’ve got more mind-blowing revelations coming up), and his defense counsel was a hot mess, but none of that tells us what actually happened to Hae. But these three things, the burial spot, her lividity, her car, speak.  We have to extract the truth from them for now as our investigation is ongoing.

Ever since understanding the significance of the autopsy report, its been my theory that Hae was killed somewhere private. Not in a public place. In a home or place of business. She was left face down for 10 hours. Then she was moved and left in Leakin Park. Her grave was not dug out (theory for now), she was dumped in a depression and covered up.  In her car, her wallet and keys were missing but her purse was found. Her heels were in the car, while her body was bare foot.

I can’t read the entire scene but this is what it says to me for now:

  • Hae got out of her car with her heels on and her purse in hand, as most women would do. Either when she was knocked out or killed, or when her body was moved, her shoes came off. The killer tossed her shoes in the backseat of her car and then threw her purse in the trunk.  No woman who carries a purse keeps it in the trunk. We keep our purses with us, within hands reach of the driver’s seat. Some women will take off their heels when driving but they don’t throw them in the backseat. They keep them in the passenger side so they can grab them and put them back on when getting out of the car. If she was actually killed in her car in the driver’s seat both her shoes and her purse would have probably been in the passenger seat area, close to her.  If she had been led to Leakin Park and killed in the park, her shoes would have been in the area and not back in the car, and her purse would have been in the front of her car.  That’s why I think she was killed in a place where she actually took her purse and shoes with her and I feel certain that the killer put her shoes in the backseat and her purse in the trunk when getting rid of her body.
  • The burial site makes me crazy. If only people could go and see the area, they’d understand what I mean. It would be the riskiest, dumbest move ever to haul her there. Imagine this: you need to get rid of a body. There is a large wooded area with hundreds of acres. Lots of secluded spots where you can pull a car over and have access to the woods. Instead you decide to pull over on a busy two lane road where there is no proper parking spot, only a small pull off, and unload a body. Its like you’re literally asking for attention. It is impossible to do at any decent hour because of the volume of cars that go by, it has to be in the dead of night. Then why pick that spot and not any other hundreds of spots in the park that would be less visible and obvious? Maybe because you’ve heard bodies are dumped in Leakin but you’re not sure where? Maybe you don’t know the area so well? I don’t know.
  • So it’s the dead of night, you somehow get her body about 150 feet into the woods, not in a straight shot back from the pull off point but off to the left about 60 feet. You do this without her clothing or stockings getting ripped from the brambles, without her skin getting scratched or her hair getting clumps of mud, leaves, sticks in it. Which means either you carry her or you have her wrapped in something and drag her.

I spend a lot of time trying to visualize all of this, to try and figure out what happened and how.  I close my eyes and imagine the scenes. Think about what’s most plausible, what’s unlikely. What every bit means. But my brain has only so much power. I bet, out there, there are people who can do this better than me.  Smarter, sharper, keener minds who can read all of this and fit it together. If you’re one of those people, holler at me.

*You never thought you’d get a lesson on Muslimy stuff while trying to solve a murder mystery eh?  Consider it a fringe benefit, more ammo for Jeopardy, padding for your already vast and sophisticated knowledge of the world. You’re welcome. 

 

How Deep Are The Weeds

The log where Hae's body was found, with Ramiro in the background as he photographs the area

The log where Hae’s body was found, with Ramiro in the background as he photographs the area

If you’re caught up on all of the Undisclosed episodes, you should be used to your mind getting blown repeatedly. I listened to episode 5 about five times myself, and heck, I’m actually in it.

Today’s Addendum will open with something amazing too -something you’ve never heard before. Another catch by Susan Simpson.

Now, going back to our previous episodes, some folks are having a hard time swallowing the dozens and dozens of inconsistencies and their implications, and their reaction is “oh come on, was nothing the State did right?”

Essentially, yes. It’s really not that hard to believe if you think about it this way: if Adnan is innocent, then naturally everything the State did was wrong, inaccurate, or contrived. Because that’s what it takes to convict an innocent person. Cops get it/do it wrong, prosecutors get it/do it wrong, defense attorneys get it/do it wrong, judges get it wrong, and juries get it wrong.  It takes that many layers of screwing up to investigate, arrest, try, and convict an innocent person.  And it happens all the time.

Worry not though, we aren’t done yet. Plenty more to come in the events of the State vs. Adnan Syed, lots more f’ing up by all the key players left to do.

For now, lets look closer at a few things. Continue reading

Its my BornDay

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME? KINDA 

My official, on-paper, birthday is August 1, 1974.  But I was actually born on June 14, 1974.  When my parents were immigrating to the US, they realized we all needed birth certificates, which were rarely issued in Pakistan back in the day (and still aren’t always issued in many parts of the world), so my mom sent her little brother to the local municipal authority to have one made.

Circa Sept/Oct 1974, Lahore, Pakistan. My beloved aunt, now long deceased, sewed this outfit for me, complete with this chef-life hat : a prediction of my future proclivity for cooking perhaps. Clearly, I was more upbeat back in those days.

Circa Sept/Oct 1974, Lahore, Pakistan. My beloved aunt, now long deceased, sewed this outfit for me, complete with this chef-like hat : a prediction of my future proclivity for cooking perhaps.
Clearly, I was more upbeat back then, but still had the same trouble keeping my eyes open for a picture as I do today.

I was around 4 or 5 months old at the time and my uncle, a teenager, couldn’t recall the date of my birth when he got to the office.  No cell phones, and no land lines in most middle class homes in Pakistan back then either. If he went back home to ask her, she’d kick his butt.  He thought better of it, and estimated August 1, getting it wrong by six weeks.

“Close enough” my parents figured, after all who the heck cares about a date of birth? Its not like anyone actually CELEBRATES them or anything.

Fast forward to 5th grade or so when mom drops the bomb that oh, by the way, your birthday is actually June 14th.  Henceforth my family reveled in torturing me thus: on June 14 my birthday would’t be celebrated because it wasn’t my official one, and then on August 1 they’d say well your birthday is actually over. But then they’d grudgingly do a joint cake cutting with my little sister, who was actually and for-real born on August 14th.

Such is the sad tale of my birthday, which if anything conditioned me to not give a damn about celebrating it.

One thing I have been slightly concerned with, which I’m still not sure is healthy or unhealthy, is the conviction that I’d die young. I had this condition in my fingers that no doctor could figure out (the joints on my fingers right by the nail would swell and the skin would split at different times in the year, painful and weird), and eventually one doctor said it was an arthritic thing.  My eye doctor soon after told me I was legally blind (though I think he didn’t know what he was talking about, I can see just fine with glasses). But I must have been around 8 or 10 at the time and I thought this meant I was aging prematurely and would be dead by 19.  So I told my best, and only, friend that I’d be gone in about a decade or so. I reminded her often, not really upset myself and oblivious to her alarm.

I made it past 19 at which point she let me have it for stressing her out all those years (sorry Shubnum), but then I noticed that the life lines on both my hands make it only slightly past the half-palm point. Since then I’ve estimated I’d drop dead in my 40’s.

I turn 41 today so while I don’t believe in astrology, palm reading, tarot cards and the such, its hard not to think of birthdays as a count-down and not a thing to be celebrated. And for all intents and purposes, birthdays are indeed a count-down for every one of us.

I don’t think of myself as a morbid person, though last month as I lay near naked for the first time in a hammam in Istanbul, scrubbed clean by a strange woman, I kept wondering if that is what it would be like to be washed and prepared for burial once it was my time to go.  I admit to being too serious for my own good. I left the hammam anxious and sober, very much unlike the euphoria my friends assured I’d experience from it.

Last year my husband, daughters and dear friend Rana organized a surprise 40th party, which caught me off guard and a bit disoriented. I don’t know how to celebrate the fact that my mother gave birth to me.  This year for my birthday I plan to celebrate, in response to all the people asking, by writing this blog, putting away laundry, watching TV, reading a bit, listening to sufi music, and cooking something, all the while in my pajamas. Jurassic World might happen. Or maybe not.

Let the count-down begin.

PS: Look out for a new post on Adnan’s case, with new video footage and photos, coming tomorrow

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