Physical Evidence

Physical Evidence collected by Baltimore City Police Dept in the Case against Adnan Syed

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Physical evidence was collected first from the crime scene in Leakin Park where Hae Min Lee was found, her clothing, and later from inside her car. Search and Seizure warrants were obtained, allowing police to collect evidence from Adnan’s car and his family home.  Blood and hair samples from both Adnan Syed and Jay Wilds as well as various bodily samples taken from Hae during the autopsy. Other evidence collected includes the windscreen wiper arm (also from Hae’s car but retrieved weeks later), and Adnan’s coat.

What Written Evidence is there about the Physical Evidence?

Most of the written evidence here comes from the Police Department files. The “Laboratory Division Mobile Unit Fingerprint Report”s are very valuable here, despite the name they are used for a lot more than just fingerprints. It is the all-purpose form used by the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) Mobile Crime Lab technicians. The Crime Lab’s role was to take prints, record the crime scene, and recover and document other evidence. “Fingerprint Report” is just the title on the pre-printed form they use to record all that information, and to describe any photographs they took.

Various other types of document are useful, including the detective’s progress reports, photographs, medical examiner and hospital records, returns from the “Search and Seizure Warrants” returns and Evidence Control Unit records.

But what happened to the evidence next? Well, most of it was submitted to Evidence Control, and sometimes that’s all that happened. Other evidence was tested, by the BPD lab teams, or for the DNA testing, the  Maryland State Police labs. All the test requests and most of the results are included on this page (and highlighted in bold). Some test results were not present in the MPIA response from the Police, mostly this happens when the the tests were mentioned during trial. Instead of a written report (which would have to be declared to the defense as part of discovery) we only have the trial testimony of the technicians or scientists who did the tests, or sometimes their colleagues.

Records covering all or most of the BPD held Evidence

BPD Evidence List, run at 9/29/99 14:00:10
BPD Evidence List, run at 10/12/99, 14:30:44 Four additional items are now on the final page
Gutierrez defense team’s review of evidence 11/12/99 Incomplete but this often contains more detail about the actual items than the BPD records do. E.g. the BPD broad description “Items from Back Seat” is here described item by item,it includes Hae Min Lee’s purse and even tells us about her perfume brand.
Other screenshots taken from Gutierrez team evidence reviews, various dates 11/3/99, 11/8/99 and 11/12/99

Leakin Park Crime Scene

Hae Min Lee’s body was discovered off North Franklintown Road, by Mr S on February 9, 1999

Evidence Location Map 2/9/99 prepared by Romano Thomas from the Crime Lab (this is the computer-aided-design map with “snowflakes” for trees)
Burial Location Map 3/9/99 prepared by surveyor Phillip Buddemeyer (hand drawn over a printed map, shows the log)
Laboratory Division Mobile Unit (Fingerprint) Report 2/9/99 – Physical evidence recovered from Leakin Park crime scene and brief description of 96 photos taken.
Link to Google maps location on N Franklintown Road – in satellite view the concrete blocks which mark the position of the 1999 parking place are visible. The parking place no longer exists, as a bicycle path was built alongside that stretch of road in the mid 2000’s, but the blocks are still there, and some wooden boundary posts can even still be seen.
Photos: Serial distributed four to the media as publicity shots, and Undisclosed retrieved five more from the court archive. These photos are mostly of views from N Franklintown Road, and none of them feature Hae Min Lee in any way. 87 other photos were taken but have been withheld for the sake of Hae’s family.

Physical evidence recovered:

Kathleen Murphy’s Summary of Notes of Rodriguez Findings 7/31/99
Defense video of Leakin Park Burial Site – September 20, 1999 (Davis filming, Gutierrez, Lewis and Buddemeyer present)

Evidence recovered from Hae’s Person

Autopsy – performed 2/10/99, signed 5/20/99

Physical evidence recovered:

Hae’s Car

Hae’s car was a silver 5-door,  1998 Nissan Sentra GxE – tag FSV 645. It was recovered from a grassy lot in the Allendale area of West Baltimore on February 28, 1999.

It was not processed immediately, but towed to BPD Headquarters on E Fayette St, downtown, and released to the Lee family in March.

For reference: Nissan Sentra 1998 user manual and model variant specifications

Nissan found and towed

2/28/99: Discovery

Location: lot/alley behind 300 Edgewood St,
(Lot bordered by Edgewood St, N Grantley St, W Lexington and W Mulberry St) A 3D visualisation of where Hae’s car was found based on police sketch and alignments visible in photos, plus Google Earth 3D.

Link to site on Google Maps
Sgt. Forrester’s Sketch of Hae’s Car Location 2/28/99
Laboratory Division Mobile Unit (Fingerprint) Report 2/28/99 – four photos taken of Hae’s car, no collection or testing took place.

No physical evidence was recovered

2/28/99: Towing to BPD HQ

Off D Naylor (SW District) report on towing Nissan from Edgwood to BPD HQ. Vehicle Processing Report 2/28/99

2/28/99: Processing at BPD HQ

Vehicle Processing Area, BPD Headquarters, 601 E. Fayette Street,

Laboratory Division Mobile Unit and Fingerprint Report 2/28/99. Latent prints, items collected into evidence and description of 40 photographs taken. 10 of those photos have been recovered from the court archives by Undisclosed.

Physical evidence recovered: