EDITORIALS, TOP STORIES

Making a Murderer – Conspiracy Theories, Red Herrings & White Noise

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 4.49.41 PMIf you were captivated by the Netflix series Making a Murderer you weren’t alone.

I doubt many other documentaries have created the kind of buzz generated by the complex crime drama.

Since the show aired I’ve had many requests to weigh in and share my perspective.

One of my favourite aspects of working a homicide case was the brainstorming sessions we had as we worked towards solving a difficult case.  Investigators engaging each other and sharing their theories regarding the evidence, avenues of investigation, tactics and potential suspects.

After working over eighteen (18) years as a Detective assigned to Criminal Investigation Units like Homicide, Major Crime, Organized Crime and Narcotics, I can tell you “critical analysis” is one of the greatest tools a criminal investigator can have.

When it comes to assessing the case against Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, its essential that you focus on the evidence and avoid distractions created by conspiracy theories, red herrings and white noise.

Reasonable Doubt

In American justice a defendant’s guilt must be proved beyond a “reasonable doubt.”

It’s important to remember that a “reasonable doubt” doesn’t mean “no doubt.”

If you search the internet you can find many definitions of reasonable doubt.

In Cage v Louisiana (1990) reasonable doubt was defined as;

“A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt. It is an actual substantial doubt. It is a doubt that a reasonable man can seriously entertain.  What is required is not an absolute or mathematical certainty, but a moral certainty.”

Translated – a “reasonable doubt” must be “reasonable.”

If you’re the kind of person who has a tendency to believe in conspiracy theories, like George Bush was behind 9-11, or Neil Armstrong really didn’t walk on the moon, then stop reading, this article isn’t for you.

If you have the ability to engage in critical thinking, examine evidence and eliminate distractions please keep reading.

A Story Framed in a Certain Way

When assessing Avery and Dassey’s guilt or innocence, it’s important to acknowledge there are many things Making a Murderer viewers don’t know.

Documentaries present a story often shaped with a point of view.

In this case, information on the internet suggests the documentary was originally intended to be a defence sponsored undertaking to be played for Avery’s jury to support his innocence.

Regardless, you must keep in mind we are only seeing what the people behind the documentary want us to see.  The story is edited and framed in a certain way to support a theme, the theme is found in the title, “Making a Murderer.”

The inference is obvious.

What we don’t see is the preponderance of evidence the jury relied upon to convict Mr. Avery.  We are only exposed to elements of evidence deemed essential by the film makers in their quest to tell their story.

What we don’t see is the evidence in its totality, that is, the entire investigative file complete with investigative findings that may influence your analysis of the case.  That evidence might include investigative findings not disclosed or used in the prosecution by the State.

What that means is we are essentially forced to come to a conclusion without the knowledge or benefit of all the facts surrounding the case.

Those limitations don’t seem to bother most people when it comes to making a determination of guilt or innocence.

In researching this article I relied on court transcripts, interview and interrogation transcripts, news articles and media accounts.

If you get on the internet you will find dozens of conspiracy theories surrounding the Avery case.

I don’t have the time or inclination to debunk these theories but will explore some of the more significant issues.

Tunnel Vision

Unknown
Google Images

Accusing police of having tunnel vision in homicide cases has become a popular tactic employed by criminal defence attorneys in the new millennium.

Avery’s lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, rely on this tactic when they accuse the Manitowoc & Calumet County Sheriffs Department of singling out Avery as the one and only suspect in this case.

Police Detectives involved in the investigation testified Avery wasn’t the only subject of interest, or suspect, investigated in the case.

Lead investigator Detective Tom Fassbender pointed out Avery was a logical starting point given the fact he was the last person known to have contact with the victim, Teresa Halbach.

In any homicide case, investigators must follow the evidence and make investigative decisions based on common sense and logic.

It would have been known, early in the investigation, that Halbach had an appointment with Avery on the afternoon of her disappearance.  Once her RAV4 was found on the Avery property it was only logical to pursue Avery as a suspect.

The tunnel vision argument holds little water.

Conflict of Interest

In the early stages of the investigation, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel held a press conference indicating the Manitowoc Sheriffs Departments role in the investigation would be limited to providing resources and equipment.

He made the announcement because of the Manitowoc Sheriffs Departments perceived conflict of interest with Steven Avery.

Making a Murderer - Netflix
Making a Murderer – Netflix

In light of the circumstances surrounding the civil litigation regarding Avery’s wrongful conviction, the conflict of interest was not just perceived, it was very real.

To further address the perceived conflict of interest, Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz from Calumet County was appointed to direct the prosecution.

In a perplexing turn of events, the measures to avoid the conflict of interest seemed to be ignored.

Not long into the investigation we would learn Manitowoc investigators played critical roles in the investigation by participating in several searches on Avery’s property and finding critical, highly damaging evidence.

Manitowoc County Lieutenant James Lenk would find the key to Halbach’s RAV4 in Avery’s bedroom and would be at the scene when a .22 calibre bullet containing Halbach’s DNA was found in his garage.

Lenk and Manitowoc County Sergeant Andrew Colburn would become key figures in a defence focused on the theory police planted key evidence to implicate Avery.

All of the allegations could have been easily avoided if Manitowoc and Calumet County Police Officials respected their own undertaking to avoid any perceived or real conflict of interest.

Their failure to respect the conflict of interest is difficult to explain.

The Search Warrants

Most urban Police Departments have forensic teams assigned to process homicide crime scenes.  In the City of Winnipeg, Homicide Detectives are not involved in the collection or processing of crime scene evidence.

CSI Teams - Google Images
CSI Teams – Google Images

Rural Police Agencies don’t always have access to these kinds of specialty units and require their investigators to perform multiple functions.

The searches conducted at the Avery property and manner in which the evidence was collected provided much fodder for conspiracy theorists.

Much of the controversy surrounding the seizure and collection of evidence could have been avoided by using the services of a specialized CSI unit.

Forensic Evidence

Much of the documentary focuses on key pieces of evidence found on the Avery property and the results of DNA analysis.

Teresa Halbach’s key to her RAV4 was allegedly found in Steven Avery’s bedroom.  Forensic tests located Avery’s DNA on this critical piece of evidence.

Halbach’s RAV4 was found on Avery’s property.

(Defence lawyer Jerry Buting questions the discovery of the vehicle and views Pamela Sturn, the woman who found the vehicle, with great suspicion.)

The vehicle was examined and significant blood evidence was found inside the vehicle.  DNA analysis determined Avery’s blood was found in various locations within the vehicle.

Halbach’s blood was found in the rear cargo area.

Steve Avery's cut finger - Netflix
Steve Avery’s cut finger – Netflix

At the time of his arrest, Avery’s hands were examined and a significant laceration was noted on the middle finger of his right hand.

I found this to be an interesting piece of the puzzle.

I’ve seen similar injuries on the hands of many murder suspects I’ve interrogated in edged weapon homicides.

When a knife is plunged into a human body blood is immediately expelled on the blade and handle.  In some cases, the suspect’s hand slips down the handle and contacts the blade causing lacerations to the fingers or hand.

(In Brendan Dassey’s interview at Mishicot High School he indicated Avery cut himself on the knife he used to kill Halbach.  Unfortunately, the information was fed to him and is of little evidentiary value.)

In this case, the cut finger is easy to explain away when one considers the fact Avery lives in a junk yard.

However, the existence of the cut does provide a logical explanation regarding how Avery’s blood may have been deposited in Halbach’s vehicle.  If the cut was not present, it would be impossible to explain how Avery’s blood could have been there.

Avery’s fingerprints were not found on the vehicle.

Buting suggests – if Avery was the suspect, the lack of fingerprints on the vehicle must have meant he was wearing gloves.  It naturally follows – if he was wearing gloves, he wouldn’t have left blood evidence in the vehicle.

In reality, there were a number of finger print impressions found on the vehicle, however, none of them were suitable for identification purposes.

Defence suggested the blood in Halbach’s RAV4 was planted by police from a purple tube vial of Avery’s blood taken in connection with his wrongful conviction case.

Blood Evidence in Halbach's RAV4 - Netflix
Blood Evidence in Halbach’s RAV4 – Netflix

They also suggested the key to the RAV4 was planted by police after they contaminated it with Avery’s DNA.

The District Attorney went to great lengths to disprove the allegations.

FBI tests indicated the blood samples found in Halbach’s RAV4 did not contain the additive EDTA, a blood preservative found in purple tube blood vials.

The discovery of the RAV4 key and the blood in Halbach’s vehicle remain the subject of much speculation and suspicion.

What you didn’t hear in the documentary was there were a total of six (6) locations where Avery’s blood was found in the RAV4.  These locations included the ignition area, driver’s seat, front console, passenger seat, rear passenger door and a CD case.

It’s important to note blood experts testified these samples included cast off blood, projected blood and blood stains from active bleeding.  The projected blood, blood that was deposited with some form of motion or velocity, was found on the RAV4’s rear cargo door.  This is an important factor because forensic evidence suggests Halbach’s body was placed in the cargo area of the vehicle at some point. 

Experts testified the different types of blood stains were not consistent with the planted blood theory. 

Avery’s DNA profile was also found on the hood latch of Halbach’s RAV4 after it was examined and investigators realized the killer had gone under the hood and disconnected the battery.

This particular profile was not developed from a blood stain and came from some other form of transfer ie: sweat, skin cells.

(This type of evidence would have been impossible for police to plant.)

If you accept the blood evidence then you must believe Steven Avery is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you don’t accept this evidence, stay with me.

The .22 Calibre Rifle and Projectile

The “planting evidence” theory extended to a .22 calibre projectile found in Steven Avery’s garage on March 2, 2006.

The projectile was found while Lieutenant James Lenk was on site after several searches had already been conducted on the property.  Halbach’s DNA was subsequently discovered on this piece of evidence.

Steven Avery's Rifle - ap images
Steven Avery’s Rifle – ap images

The projectile was matched to a  .22 calibre rifle owned by Avery.  The rifle was in a police evidence locker since the date it was seized on November 6, 2005.

(It was noted the rifle was seized from a gun rack mounted over Avery’s bed.)

At the time the rifle was seized, police had no idea Halbach had been the victim of a shooting.  This information came out some time later after Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Leslie Eisenberg examined Halbach’s charred remains recovered from the Avery burn pit.

Eisenberg concluded certain bones from Halbach’s skull had defects she believed were caused by gunshots.  (Lead fragments were detected in x-rays of the skull bones believed to have been caused by a projectile fired from a gun.)

The Burn Pit

“If ever someone’s bones are found 20′ out my bedroom window in my back yard, I’m gonna be a worried guy,” defence lawyer Dean Strang quipped to his co-counsel Jerry Buting as they drove down the highway.

His point shouldn’t be lost on any of us.

Strang essentially concedes something miraculous must have happened for someone other than Avery to be responsible for the discovery of Halbach’s remains in his fire pit.

Avery Burn Pit Aerial Shot - Netflix
Avery Burn Pit Aerial Shot – Netflix

A fire pit that is literally 20′ from his trailer.

My experience working over a decade on homicide cases taught me that miracles are major red flags in a homicide investigation.  If it takes a miracle to explain something then you should probably start looking for a less miraculous explanation.

According to Dr. Eisenberg there were no complete bones found in the fire pit but there was at least a fragment, or more, of almost every bone below the victim’s neck recovered in the burn site.

There were also bone fragments found in the Janda burn barrel next door and pelvic bone was found in a quarry on the property some distance away from Avery’s trailer.

Dr. Eisenberg testified it was her opinion the primary burn site was Steven Avery’s burn pit.  She arrived at her conclusion primarily because of the sheer volume of bones recovered at this site.  Her conclusions were supported by other experts who testified at the trial.

Not included in the documentary was the fact Halbach’s cell phone, camera and  PDA were also found in the Janda burn barrel.  Nor is the fact, Blaine Dassey observed Avery placing a white plastic bag in the burning barrel when he got off the school bus that day at around 3:40 pm.

Conspiracy theorists speculate Halbach was burned elsewhere and her remains were deposited in Avery’s burn pit.  An improbable theory in the face of the evidence.

Evidence of Crime Scene Clean Up

One of the big questions conspiracy theorists have is, “Where is the blood.”

You will note the Prosecution theory in this case morphed as a result of information provided by Brendan Dassey who indicated Halbach’s throat was cut in Avery’s bed in his trailer.

Ultimately, the Prosecution told the jury Halbach was killed in Avery’s garage where .22 calibre shell casings and the projectile containing Halbach’s DNA was found.

But that doesn’t answer the question.

During Brendan Dassey’s first interview at Mishicot High School he informed Fassbender and Wiegert they cleaned the crime scene using gasoline, paint thinner and bleach.  In fact, he indicated his pants had been contaminated with bleach during the clean up.

Police seized the pants as corroborative evidence.

It’s important to note Avery had five (5) days to clean up the crime scene before he was taken into custody.

Dassey’s Legal Representation

I have never seen anything so bizarre in my life.

A defence attorney hell-bent on securing a confession from his client, making a plea bargain to make sure a conviction is registered against him and bolster the State’s case against Steven Avery.

Len Kachinsky - Netflix
Len Kachinsky – Netflix

Enter the one, the only Len Kachinsky.

I won’t dwell on Kachinsky because if you watched the series there’s not much that needs to be said.

Kachinsky came across as an awkward little man who was strangely aroused every time a member of the media approached him.

His private investigator Mike O’Kelly was equally disturbing.

O’Kelly’s theatrical interrogation of Dassey, complete with victim photographs, remembrance ribbons and props, was something to behold.  His email messages recommending the extermination of the Avery clan were disconcerting, as were his emotional breakdowns during Dassey’s hearings.

The events were so outrageous they prompted a Winnipeg criminal defence attorney, known for his temperate, calm demeanour, to take to Twitter to express his anger and frustration;

Josh Weinstein - Twitter
Josh Weinstein – Twitter

At the end of the series I was left in a state of bewilderment wondering how incredibly off the rails a defence attorney has to go before an accused person can get a mistrial.

The bar seems to be set very high, or low, depending on your perspective.

It’s my opinion Brendan Dassey deserved a new trial, not because I believe he’s innocent, but because I don’t believe he received fair representation in his defence.

The Interrogation of Brendan Dassey 

“The police are taught a technique by Reid in Chicago to elicit confessions, not get to the truth,” said Dassey lawyer Mark Fregmen.

According to Reid, “Clearly Mr. Fregmen is misinformed or is intentionally misstating the facts.”

If you review the Reid book on Criminal Interrogation and Confessions you will note the first line indicates, “The purpose of an interrogation is to learn the truth.”

Brendan Dassex - Netflix
Brendan Dassey – Netflix

I couldn’t even begin to accurately recant the number of homicide interviews and interrogations I participated in during my police career.

Before retiring from the Police Service I developed interview and interrogation case studies and delivered training to over two hundred (200) Police Officers.

I obtained one false confession during my homicide career.  

Even though the suspect confessed to a murder, he was never charged simply because he failed to recant any intimate details regarding the crime.  

Contrary to Mr. Fregmen’s theory, the police officers involved in the case were not simply interested in a confession and took our obligation to find the truth seriously.

Police use interrogation to gather evidence to either include or exclude a subject involved in an investigation.

The primary goal of any police interrogation is to elicit information from a subject that only the person responsible for the crime would know.  This type of evidence is considered high-value evidence and is essential to support a prosecution and conviction.

Hence the necessity for Police Investigators to secure “hold-back” information from the victim’s family, the press and even police officers.

“Hold-back” information can be any fact or detail regarding the modus operandi of the crime, or any factor unique to the crime.

It is vitally important that homicide interrogators protect the “hold-back” information during their interrogations.

Divulging ‘hold-back” or “feeding” hold-back information to suspects significantly devalues the evidentiary value of the interrogation and should be avoided at all costs.

In fairness, there are times when investigators have to feed hold-back information to a suspect to support the allegations investigators put to the offender.  It’s like playing poker, you have to show a card sometimes to make sure your opponent believes you aren’t bluffing.

A good interrogator would never divulge “critical” or “key” hold-back information.

Detectives Mark Wiegert and Tom Fassbender interrogated Brendan Dassey.

You should know, the rules regarding interrogation in American Justice significantly differ from the rules in Canadian Justice.

I heard many things during Dassey’s interrogation that might render his confession inadmissible in a Canadian court.  Things like;

  • suggestive questioning
  • inducements
  • deception
  • divulging hold-back
  • “feeding” information

(There is nothing wrong with using minimization, deflection or blaming techniques during a police interrogation.)

One of the most significant pieces of hold-back information in the Avery case was the knowledge Halbach had been shot in the head.  This information was not shared in the public forum and would only be known by someone involved or present at the time of her murder.

Detectives Wiegert and Fassbender knew this information when they interrogated Dassey on March 1, 2006 and did everything they could to elicit it from him using the noted techniques.

At one point, Wiegert breaks protocol and feeds the information to Dassey, “All right, I’m just gonna come out and ask you.  Who shot her in the head?”

The lack of patience was astonishing.

I understand how it happened.

Brendan Dassey presents as an extremely difficult subject for an interrogator, not only because he has an extremely low IQ, but also because he’s an introverted, shy and inarticulate person.

I’ve interviewed many people just like him.

It’s a frustrating experience.

It’s like pulling teeth.

Interrogators working with these kind of people must have extraordinary patience and be in complete control of their emotions.

It’s clear from the very start Dassey is a suggestible, dishonest and unreliable.

That doesn’t mean we have to reject everything that came out of his mouth.

For example, during his interrogation he was asked if Halbach said anything to him during the time he allegedly sexually assaulted her.  Dassey indicated, “She told me not to do it, to do the right thing.”

The comment was a bit of a smoking gun for me.

I can’t give Dassey enough credit to fabricate the words a victim of sexual assault may have said during the time she was being raped.  I just don’t believe he’s capable of having that kind of insight.

Halbach told him to, “Do the right thing.”

The words struck me as having the ring of truth.

During questioning Dassey stated, “We, he came up with burning her.  So he set her back on the floor and then, that’s when he threw her in the fire.”

I’ve done many interrogations where murder suspects had Freudian slips just like Dassey.  “We, he came up with burning her.”  You have to pay very close attention to even catch it.

In my experience, it’s the Freudian slips that often bring us closest to the truth.

When I watched Dassey’s interrogation I was struck by his eternal lack of emotion.  The boy was being interrogated regarding a horrific sex killing and could not find the moral decency to express one iota of concern or sympathy for the victim of the crime.

He struggled to express remorse, sadness or sympathy for Halbach when he testified in his own defence.

That told me there is something horribly wrong.

Dassey reminded me of boys I’ve met who were victims of severe sexual abuse or teenaged child soldiers who were exploited by hard-core gang members…withdrawn, emotionally numb, damaged.

I wasn’t shocked when I read internet reports indicating Avery had sexually abused him at some point in his tragic life.

Throughout Dassey’s interrogation and subsequent testimony at his trial, his body language projected shame and guilt.  Ultimately, he came across as a pathological, remorseless liar who clearly failed to garner much in the way of sympathy from his jury.

I wasn’t surprised when he was convicted.

Testimony of Kyla Avery

Kayla Avery is Steven Avery’s niece and Brendan Dassey’s cousin.

At some point after Halbach’s murder Kayla made a disclosure to a school counsellor regarding a conversation she had with Brendan Dassey.

Kayla Avery - Netflix
Kayla Avery – Netflix

Avery indicated Dassey disclosed he had seen Halbach “pinned up” in Steven Avery’s trailer and saw body parts in the bon fire.

She also disclosed that Steven Avery asked one of her cousins to help move a body.

Kayla was interviewed by police and provided a statement containing the information disclosed to the school counsellor.

Unfortunately, when she took the stand to give her testimony she tearfully recanted her evidence indicating she was confused and made the entire story up.

I’ve seen this happen literally dozens of times during homicide trials.

Witnesses get cold feet or fall prey to pressure from relatives, friends or people close to an accused offender.

She is only worthy of mention because her original information corroborated Brendan Dassey’s confession.

I have no doubt Kayla Avery lied on the witness stand to do damage control for Dassey.

Sergeant Andrew Colborn

Sergeant Colborn turned out to be one of the central players in the planting evidence theory advanced by the defence.

Sergeant Andrew Colburn - Netflix
Sergeant Andrew Colburn – Netflix

Colborn’s testimony at Avery’s trial provided the spark needed to light several conspiracy theories.

Why is it Colborn made a phone call making a query regarding Halbach’s licence plate number before her vehicle was discovered?

Defence attorney Strang suggested Colborn was reading the plate number from the back bumper when he made the call.  Colborn’s inability to recall or explain details regarding the query only raised Strang’s suspicions.

Prosecutor Kratz suggests it was merely a telephone enquiry made to confirm information regarding the plate number, make and model of the vehicle.

The inference the Defence makes is that Colborn located Halbach’s vehicle and stashed it on Avery’s property.

In response, Kratz pointed out that to believe the theory, the jury would have to conclude the police either killed Halbach or found her murdered somewhere, burned her body and stashed it on Avery’s property.

Sound incredulous to you?

It does to me.

Avery Phone Calls

During the investigation information came to light Avery made calls to Halbach’s cell phone.

Two (2) of the calls were made using the *67 feature to block his caller identification.

At 4:35 pm, after police believe Halbach is dead, Avery makes an unblocked call to her cell phone.  The Prosecutor refers to this call as the “alibi” call as the cell phone is probably in the burn barrel by this time.

Information from Auto-trader indicated Halbach had taken photographs at Avery’s property on six (6) prior occasions between June 20, 2005 and October 10, 2005.

On October 10, 2005, Halbach attended Avery’s property and he opened his door wearing only a towel.  Halbach indicated Avery “creeped her out” and subsequently told her employer she would not go back to the property because she was scared of him.

None of this information was shared in the documentary.

The Timeline

Homicide investigation is a challenging undertaking.

Making a Murderer - Netflix
Making a Murderer – Netflix

My experience in homicide investigation helped me learn how to identify leads, follow evidence and develop advanced analytical and investigative skills.

Experience taught me one of the most important aspects of homicide investigation involves the construction of a solid time line.  When you build a solid time line a picture inevitably starts to emerge.

The timeline in the Halbach murder investigation is compelling.

October 31, 2005

8:12 am

  • Avery calls Auto-trader, and specifically asks for Halbach to attend to take photographs and provides customer information under his sister’s name – B. Yanda
  • The question that should be asked is, “Why the deception?”

2:27 pm

  • Halbach calls Autotrader receptionist and advises she’s on the way to the Avery property

2:30 – 2:45 pm

  • Bobby Dassey reports seeing Halbach taking photographs
  • Once she is done taking photographs he see’s her walking towards his Uncle Steven’s trailer
  • Halbach is never seen alive again after this time

2:41 pm

  • Halbach’s cell phone goes out of service and is never used again
  • The cell phone is later found in the burn barrel with her PDA and camera

3:40 – 3:45 pm

  • Blaine Dassey arrives home from school, gets off the school bus and reports observing Avery place a white plastic bag in the burn barrel where Halbach’s cell phone, PDA and camera were found. (The barrel was burning at this time.) 
  • Dassey also notes a Suzuki and snowmobile have been removed from Avery’s garage and parked outside, this of course, makes room for the RAV4 to be parked in the garage.

          (Brendan Dassey indicated Avery parked the RAV4 in the garage  during his interrogation)

7:00 pm

  • In a letter written to a Judge – Brendan Dassey indicates he attended the bonfire at 7:00 pm on October 31, 2005
  • He also indicated he gathered wood, a cabinet, tires and a van seat to put on the fire
  • The problem for Dassey is overwhelming evidence suggests the incendiary material he gathered was placed on Teresa Halbach’s body to obliterate evidence.

7:00 – 7:30 pm

  • Scott Tadych reports observing a raging fire in Avery’s burn pit

7:30 – 7:45 pm

  • Estimated time darkness fell on the Avery property

11:00 pm

  • Blaine Dassey returns home from trick or treating and observes Avery’s silhouette illuminated by the burn pit
  • This provides corroborative evidence regarding the duration of the fire and supports estimates made by experts regarding how long the fire had to burn to cremate Teresa Halbach

Motive

I’ve seen people on social media asking questions surrounding motive.

Many of them have a hard time believing Avery could commit such a horrific act when he was on the verge of securing a significant life-changing financial settlement.

I don’t have any problem making a determination regarding motive.

Teresa Halbach’s murder was a sexually motived, violent crime perpetrated by an unsophisticated man filled with hate and anger.

Steven Avery Mug Shot - Police Handout
Steven Avery Mug Shot – Police Handout

Simply put, you don’t spend eighteen (18) years of your life in prison for a crime you didn’t commit and come out of it unscathed.

In an interview with Maxim magazine Prosecutor Ken Kratz indicated Avery created a diagram of a torture chamber in prison and told other inmates, “I intend to torture and rape and murder young women,” once he was released from jail.

The Judge decided not to allow the evidence as it was too prejudicial to Avery.

It may also be significant that, at the time of the killing, Avery’s girlfriend Jodi Stachowski was doing jail time.

It’s fairly clear, Teresa Halbach’s body wasn’t burned because Avery is an arsonist, her body was burned because it contained the kind of evidence that could send a man to prison for the rest of his life.

That evidence had to be destroyed.

Conclusion

Did Steven Avery kill Teresa Halbach?

Steven Avery - Netflix
Steven Avery – Netflix

I think the evidence supports a verdict of guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

You can come to that conclusion without the help of DNA evidence and without any evidence provided by the much maligned Law Enforcement Officers associated to this case.

The timeline answers the question.

After meeting with Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach was never seen alive again.

Cell phone records tell us Teresa Halbach never left Avery’s property after 2:41 pm on October 31, 2005.  If she had, cell phone records, including cell tower site information, would have told us so.

The timeline is extremely tight.

Halbach never left the property, was murdered on site and her body was cremated in Avery’s burn pit, not 20′ from his front door.

Steven Avery specifically requested Halbach attend to take pictures and used deception by providing a false customer name and by using the *67 caller ID blocking feature.

He did that for a nefarious reason.

Avery admitted he met Halbach at his property and is recorded in telephone conversations indicating he had a bonfire on the night in question.  Avery can’t escape the time line, can’t escape the bonfire and can’t escape the overwhelming evidence pointing to his guilt.

In light of the irrefutable evidence, it’s ludicrous to believe someone other than Avery, killed Halbach on his property, stashed her vehicle in his junk yard and dumped her body in his fire pit right under his nose.  All of this somehow happened without his knowledge, awareness or participation.

You have to also believe that Steven Avery stoked that fire all evening long and didn’t see Teresa Halbach’s burning body, her extremities or the smell of her burning flesh and hair.

Steven Avery's Dog "Bear" - Netflix
Steven Avery’s Dog “Bear” – Netflix

As an aside, Avery’s vicious German Shepherd “Bear” was extremely protective of Avery’s yard and held police at bay for several days before they could even access the burn pit where Halbach’s bone fragments were recovered.  Animal control removed the dog several days into the investigation.

The presence of the vicious dog makes the theory someone else deposited the bones in the burn pit much less likely.

“If ever someone’s bones are found 20′ out my bedroom window in my back yard, I’m gonna be a worried guy.”

Indeed…

Rest in peace Teresa Halbach. 💔

13 Comments

  1. I know I’m a little late into the conversation but there is one thing that still bothers me.
    If the blood evidence in the RAV4 was from Avery stabbing her, tossing her in the back and then parking the vehicle in the garage, then why would it be necessary to shoot her in the head?
    If the primary site was the shooting in the garage then the stabbing and would to his finger do not make sense.
    Great article and insight – thanks.

  2. Ryan…

    I did some research based on your comment but struggle to find anything that comes close to convincing me…

    I’ll be interested to see part II of Making a Murderer on Netflix…

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. I hope you have followed up on the case more and realized they are both clearly innocent.

  4. James,

    I guess you are right, I agree that even without the fishy evidence any jury could find him guilty.

    Thanks for taking the time to try to answer our sometimes crazy questions.

    Keep on the good work.

  5. Luis;

    Thank you for reading and commenting..

    Firstly, as I indicated in the article, we don’t have intimate knowledge of the entire scope of the investigation or investigative findings. As such, I won’t pretend that I can answer or explain every question.

    I know from first hand experience, in just about every homicide case I’ve worked there were always nagging unanswered questions.

    Something else I learned, you can’t apply common sense logic to people who do illogical things, it just never works.

    1) Its difficult to explain the lack of evidence in the garage. Dassey said they used bleach, paint thinner and gas. He had evidence of bleach on his pants, I assume they were put in the washing machine but don’t know that for a fact. Blood stains, DNA can be easily removed in a washing machine with bleach and hot soapy water.

    2) From what I can glean from the Dassey interrogation, which is the only reliable / unreliable information we can go on, Avery placed her in the RAV4 after killing her with the intention of driving her somewhere to dispose of her body. At some point he changed his mind, took her out of the vehicle and burned her body in the fire pit. We know her deceased body was in the rear of the RAV4 for certain, but thats all we know for certain.

    3) As far as the RAV4 goes, it could be he moved the vehicle in the dark and was not aware of the blood evidence he left behind. it would have been tough to see in the dark and he was likely in a hurry. They did make efforts to hide the vehicle with branches and pallets etc so I would assume he would have cleaned the blood if he knew it was there.

    4) The key to the RAV4 was found under highly suspicious circumstances as was the bullet. Its almost impossible to buy into a frame up job when it comes to the bullet because the rifle was seized by police and placed in exhibit control long before they knew Halbach had been shot to death. The planting evidence regarding the bullet becomes incredibly complex.

    As I point out in my article, you can exclude the DNA evidence, the bullet, the key and just rely on the time line, Avery’s efforts to contact Halbach by call blocking his number, and the fact she is at his place by 2:27 pm and her phone goes off line 14 minutes later – never to be turned on again. In this time frame Bobby Dassey sees her walking towards Avery’s trailer. The consider the bonfire, bones, evidence in the burn barrel….everything points to Avery.

    Is every question answered, no.

    Does a reasonable doubt regarding Avery’s guilt exist, I don’t think so.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  6. Very insightful article, it helped me get a better understanding of the whole case.

    I have some questions i hope you can help me with.

    In the case the garage was indeed cleaned in those 5 days using bleach and other stuff, wouldn’t the police had found evidence of blood, or bleach cleaning on the objects inside the garage?

    The garage was full of stuff that would have been spilled with blood. I find very difficult to believe a man could clean so perfectly his garage, but left the car with so evident traces. Also wouldn’t be traces of blood on Brendan’s clothes, apart from bleach stains, if he indeed helped Avery cleaning the blood from the garage? If i was cleaning blood from a crime scene i would burn my clothes, since it’s almost impossible to completely clean traces of blood.

    Also, if Avery killed her on his garage, why use the RAV4 to move the body, to the supposed burning place 20ft from his home? to me it doesn’t seem logical.

    I can’t say Avery is innocent, but i just don’t think that the garage was where the murder took place. Or Avery is very good cleaning evidence, in which case he would have cleaned the car as well, or he is not, in which case he would have left some evidence in the garage apart from the bullet.

    The evidence found on the car is very difficult to dispute, but on his home, both the bullet and the key seems out of place. Don’t you think?

  7. Hi James,
    Thanks for writing back. I did not realize some of the blood in the RAV4 was spray. Interesting. I know a lot about EDTA tubes as I have used them in the past. Could the stopper have been removed? You now have me thinking about Steven’s possible guilt.
    I am still not sure about Brendan….. sad. I guess you can tell when someone is lying after years of interrogating. I find it fascinating. I heart still goes out to that poor kid – he never had a chance in life.
    Cheers!
    Lisa

  8. Lisa,

    The theory regarding how the murder was committed evolved with every interview conducted with Brendan Dassey.

    In the end, the Prosecutor’s theory was Teresa was killed in the garage, not the trailer.

    Dassey told Police Steven stabbed her in the chest and he stabbed her in the stomach.

    The evidence from the skeletal remains coupled with the bullet fragment with Halbach’s DNA tells us she was shot in the head at least twice.

    Dassey told Police they used bleach, gasoline and paint thinner to clean up the crime scene in the garage. Remember they had five days to do it.

    I agree with you regarding Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, both skilled, determined and committed lawyers.

    The frame theory falls short when you consider the blood evidence in the RAV4. There were passive blood drops, cast off velocity blood spatter and blood caused from active bleeding. Police simply could not plant this kind of blood evidence, nor would they contaminate so many locations in the vehicle if they were going to frame Avery. I could see them planting blood evidence at the ignition but not everywhere else in the vehicle. Doesn’t that seem like overkill and extremely risky?

    I watched a Dateline episode last night that fully explained the syringe hole in the top of Avery’s purple blood sample vial.

    Have you ever had to give a blood sample at a blood clinic. The samples are taken using a vacuum vial, after the sample is taken the syringe is disposed of and the vial is secured. The vial has a puncture in the rubber stopper because thats precisely how the blood was drawn into the tube.

    As far as the ex-boyfriend goes, it doesn’t appear there was any motive or evidence that pointed to him.

    You are welcome to your doubt and I appreciate the fact you were open to hearing other opinions.

  9. Amanda;

    First of all, thank you for reading and weighing in.

    1) In a phone call to his mother Brendan said, “He would grab me somewhere I was uncomfortable.” He also said, “You know he always touched us and that.” The issue was raised in one of his police interrogations and although he confirmed the abuse he appeared to minimize it.

    2) All the family members were interviewed at one point or another. The evidence never pointed to anyone other than Steven Avery. Revert to the timeline, Avery pursued her, used deception contacting her, his DNA was in her vehicle, her skeletal remains were 20′ from his front door. There is no factual basis to believe anyone else in the family murdered Teresa, had the motive to kill her or the means. Not to mention the intellectual ability to frame him.

    3) There is a wild conspiracy theory out there involving Scott Tadych and Bobby Dassey. I think thats what you may be referring to. In order to believe the theory you have to essentially ignore all of the evidence. Not even the defence suggested the Police were involved in the murder. Thats because there was absolutely no evidence to support such an allegation, if there was, you could be sure the defence attorneys would have raised the issue.

    As far as the 30 million dollar incentive goes, the Police Officers would never have paid a penny of that money. I believe they were indemnified by the County or State.

    When you look at the time line and supporting evidence there really is only one reasonable conclusion we can arrive at.

    Thanks again for reading.

  10. Well written! As I watched this documentary I have to say the treatment of Brendan Dassey was the most disturbing for me. I don’t think he was involved. How did he and Steve know how to clean up and sanitize a room soaked in blood? You and I both know that cutting someone’s neck will spray blood everywhere. Where did that blood go? Those police officers who interrogated him should be ashamed of themselves. That kid deserves a new trial.

    As for Steven Avery I am on the fence. Watching Kratz sickened me. He was a smug, egotistic man difficult to listen to. His true colours came out after the trial and we found out what he really thinks of women with his “sextext” scandal… Avery’s lawyers on the other hand were brillant. Is it not possible that the officers involved in Steve’s first case hated him so much they saw an opportunity to seek their revenge? What about her ex boyfriend? Maybe he killed her and saw an opportunity to make it look like Avery did it?
    The Averey family is “white trash” at their finest, however I really feel there was reasonable doubt.

    Thank you for an excellent point of view!

  11. Great perspective. A few details I’d like your thoughts on:
    – If Steven Avery was in jail for 18 years, how/when could he have sexually abused Brendan Dassey in childhood? Could another relative have abused him, and Steven was just a more convenient patsy?
    – A number of people lived on the Avery compound. Could another family member have done this to Halbach to frame Steven, who could’ve also convinced the children to support their lie (someone who the children either felt more loyalty toward, or more fear toward)? Were other family members investigated?
    – Could it have been a combo of another family member(s) (such as Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych, or a brother of Steven) committing the murder in addition to the frame-up job of the police… sadly, the Avery’s did have a history of infighting and they ultimately just wanted to be left to peacefully live in their compound – something which the lawsuit would’ve prevented if it bankrupted the police and the whole county, AND the cops did have a 30+ million dollar incentive to save themselves and their county by framing Steven Avery. I’d like to know your thoughts on this theory.

  12. James:

    I did not see the documentary but as usual your detailed coverage was well researched and made an excellent read.

  13. I did not see the documentary. You do write a good report, James. Keep it up.

Share your thoughts - we value your opinion!