Don Clinedinst is the former boyfriend of Hae Min Lee, a young woman whose murder in 1999 led to the imprisonment of another former boyfriend of hers: Adnan Syed. Syed is still in prison for the act to this day, and is the subject of the HBO documentary “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”
As the documentary notes, Clinedinst was dating Lee at the time of her death, but was never fingerprinted or named as an official suspect in the investigation. This largely has to due with the alibi he provided at the time — though the legitimacy of that is now under question in the series.
Clinedinst was 22 years old at the time of Lee’s murder. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Clinedinst Was 22 Years Old When He & Lee Began Dating
Don was 22 years old when he and Lee started dating; like Lee, he grew up in the Baltimore area. His father, Don Clinedinst, still lives in the Baltimore area to this day, according to Facebook.
Don is mentioned briefly in the investigation of Syed’s case on Serial, the viral podcast, but his life and relationship to the investigation goes in depth in the documentary. For example, in the documentary a former friend of Lee’s, Debbie Warren, reveals that she had a seven-hour long phone call with Clinedinst following the disappearances of Lee.
To HBO, Warren said, “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 mentioned that she told police about this phone call at the time, and that he seemed “concerned” about Lee’s whereabouts, though he also expressed romantic interest in her. She said, “How that all ended up playing out, I just — my mind just completely blocks it off after that. I don’t have much recollection. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to recapture what he had with Hae in some way.”
2. Clinedinst’s Mother Played a Central Role in His Alibi
When Lee disappeared, many people believed that she was with Clinedinst at the time. After the discovery of her body, Clinedinst did provide an alibi: that he was working at the time, at a local LensCrafters. The podcast Serial noted that his manager confirmed his whereabouts during the time period during which Lee would have been murdered.
However, what Serial didn’t reveal, and what the new HBO series does reveal, is that Clinedinst’s manager at the time was his mother. (Note: the above picture is of Sharon Clinedinst, Don’s step-mother; his biological mother, and the woman who was his manager at Lenscrafters, is a woman named Anita Baird.)
It is for this reason, among others, that lawyer Rabia Chaudry has stated on multiple occasions the police should further investigate Clinedinst. Chaudry was a friend of Syed’s growing up, and has since dedicated much of her adult life to fighting for his freedom.
To The Washingtonian, Chaudry said, “Don Clinedinst—his investigation was completely flawed. We have absolutely no idea where he was that day. I’m not saying that I think he’s guilty. I just think that he deserves another look.”
3. Clinedinst Appears Briefly in HBO’s ‘The Case Against Adnan Syed’ to Address His Failing Health
Clinedinst does not play a very active role in the new documentary. Rather, he only appears briefly at one point, to tell the documentary filmmakers that he isn’t concerned in whether or not people believe his alibi, and that his greater concern is making sure his wife and child will be alright after he’s gone.
Though he didn’t disclose the specificity, Clinedinst did confirm that he sustained an injury when he was 23 years old, and that he isn’t expected to live much past 50 years old.
To the filmmakers, he said, “There’s not a day go by that I do not think about her and what happened. I was very much in love with her. But to be honest with you, I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind.”
4. Clinedinst Is Now Married With a Child; He Has Been Getting Physical Therapy Since 23
As is found in the documentary series, Clinedinst has since moved to North Carolina with his wife and child, and is living with a disability.
At one point in the documentary, Clinedinst says to the filmmakers, “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.”
5. Syed Dated Lee Prior to Her Relationship With Clinedinst
Clinedinst is the man that Lee started dating after her relationship with Syed ended. She mentions both of them in her diary, which the HBO series focuses on at length.
Though Syed is the only person who was ever charged or convicted for the murder of Lee, there are a number of theories on the internet regarding who the “real” killer was, largely generated by Syed’s many supporters in the wake of the Serial podcast.
Many theories include Jay Wilds, one of the key players in the Serial podcast, and other theories implicated Clinedinst. However, regardless of all of the media attention this story has gotten in the last five years, it will be an uphill battle for Syed’s legal team to succeed in exonerating him. Most recently, a judge rejected his lawyer’s request for a retrial.