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Crime News

So, Uh, What Was The Relationship Between Debbie Warren And Don Clinedinst In 'The Case Against Adnan Syed?'

Shortly after Hae Min Lee went missing, her friend Debbie Warren talked on the phone with Lee's boyfriend Don Clinedinst for a whopping "seven hours."

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Of all the shocking revelations revealed in the first episode of HBO's docu-series "The Case Against Adnan Syed," one detail that's really gotten true crime fans talking is the curious interaction between Debbie Warren and Don Clinedinst, two people who were both involved in Hae Min Lee's life before her tragic killing.

Lee's murder and the subsequent conviction of her former high school sweetheart Adnan Syed was dissected by the hit true crime podcast "Serial" during the series' premiere season in 2014. The case is now being examined again, this time bringing even more new information to light, during HBO's recently premiered four-part series.

Syed, whose relationship with Lee ended before her death, has maintained his innocence even while spending the last 19 years behind bars, although he was recently denied a new trial by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Some of his supporters have chastised police for not investigating Lee's boyfriend Don Clinedinst more thoroughly, but it seems that shortly after Lee went missing, her close friend Debbie Warren actually did investigate Clinedinst herself, much to the surprise of many who tuned in to watch the first episode of the HBO doc on Sunday night.

Warren told investigators back then that, after Lee went missing, she contacted Clinedinst to ask about Lee's possible whereabouts, first via email, the HBO doc revealed. But Clinedinst was "eager" and "very open" to talking to her and that led to a "seven-hour phone call," Warren said in the series.

"I just tried to find out how much he cared about her, what he knew about her disappearance, and I don't recall what it was we had that seven-hour conversation [about], but we did," Warren said.

Hae Min Lee and her friends in high schoool

She then claimed that she told Clinedinst about her plans to spend spring break with her sister on a nearby college campus, and he expressed interest in visiting her.

"I guess it was that evening, it was the first time that he really expressed, like, romantic interest and it was kind of odd," she said. "I didn't really know what to do with that ... you know, he made it very clear that's what he was interested in. And I guess, to some extent, I went along with it for some time."

Warren said that she made it clear that something "sexual" was "not something we were going to be involved in." As for the details of what exactly they did talk about during that seven-hour phone call, Warren did not provide any further information in the docu-series.

"How that all ended up playing out, I just — my mind just completely blocks it off after that," she said. "I don't have much recollection. I wasn't sure if he was trying to recapture what he had with Hae in some way."

Warren said in her March 1999 statement to police that she initially contacted Clinedinst because she suspected that he may have been hiding Lee, but that, after talking to him, she no longer suspected him; he was "concerned" about Lee and suspected that Syed might have been involved, she said.

A number of armchair detectives have pointed to Clinedinst, among others, as a possible suspect in Lee's death. Clinedinst was 22 when he entered into a relationship with Lee, who was then a high school senior and his coworker at LensCrafters. Clinedinst and Lee spent the night together the day before she disappeared and Lee was planning to meet up with him again the day that she went missing, according to the HBO series.

Also sparking debate is Clinedinst's alibi. He contends that he was at work when Lee went missing, but the manager of the store location where he claimed to be working that day — and the linchpin of his alibi — turned out to be his mother. Authorities did not interview employees to verify that they'd interacted with Clinedinst that day, and they did not request time sheets to prove Clinedinst's alibi until later.

"They didn’t take any fingerprints from him, they didn’t take hair samples from him, they didn’t take DNA from him … even though the hair found on Hae’s body didn’t match Adnan’s. They didn’t think, ‘Maybe we should check the boyfriend,’" attorney Rabia Chaudry told Oxygen.com. Chaudry has been a vocal supporter of Syed's and is a family friend.

Clinedinst did not participate in the HBO documentary because of his "failing health," director Amy Berg has claimed, but he did appear briefly in the first episode, in the form of a voice-over.

“My next 12 years is basically making sure that my wife and kids are taken care of. Not worrying about whether anybody believes my alibi,” Clinedinst can be heard saying.

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