An 18-year-old Baltimore County man was convicted yesterday of killing his former girlfriend, a Woodlawn High School student, and burying her in a shallow grave because she broke up with him.
After a six-week trial, the jury deliberated only two hours before finding Adnan Masud Syed guilty of strangling Hae Min Lee, 18.
Syed sat calmly after the verdict was read, resting his arm on the back of his attorney's chair.
Then he turned to his distraught family and friends, many wearing traditional Muslim head scarves, and told them not to worry.
"I'll be all right," he said as sheriffs' deputies put handcuffs on him. "I have faith in the Lord. I know I didn't kill her. The Lord knows I didn't kill her."
Syed, of the 7000 block of Johnnycake Road in Woodlawn, is scheduled to be sentenced in front of Judge Wanda K. Heard on April 5. He faces life in prison on the first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery charges.
The death shocked and saddened the Woodlawn community. Two trees have been planted at Woodlawn High School in honor of Lee, who played on the lacrosse and field hockey teams, was manager of the wrestling team and aspired to be an optician.
The victim's mother, Youn Wha Kim, 43, of the 7300 block of Rockridge Road, Woodlawn, said through an interpreter yesterday that she was pleased that her daughter's killer would be punished.
"She feels that justice has been done," said Keith Kim, a family friend. "She wanted to do justice for her daughter."
Court records say that Syed told police that he and Lee, classmates and friends, dated for a time in 1998 but kept their relationship secret because of religious differences. They broke up, the records say, in December 1998.
Syed became upset when Lee started dating another man, said Assistant State's Attorney Kevin B. Urick.
"I think it was hurt pride," Urick said.
Lee was last seen about 3 p.m. last Jan. 13, driving from school in her 1998 Nissan Sentra, police said. She was going to pick up her 6-year-old niece and go to her after-school job at a LensCrafters optical shop. A few weeks later, a man walking in a secluded section of Leakin Park in West Baltimore found Lee's body partially buried near the 4400 block of Franklintown Road, police said. Her car was found nearby.