If you don’t live under a rock, then you’ve heard of Netflix’s documentary series “Making A Murderer” which follows Steven Avery’s case after his arrest for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Striking controversy all over the country, fans are demanding a retrial. Petitions have popped up everywhere requesting a pardon for both Avery and his nephew Brandon Dassey. But have viewers been privileged to all evidence necessary to make such requests? Well, lets review the case.
In 1985, Steven Avery was sentenced to prison for raping a local woman, Penny Ann Beernsten. He was released after serving 18 years when DNA evidence proved his innocence. After his release, he filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Manitowoc County for wrongful imprisonment, which he was assumed to win in 2005. Before he would receive this settlement, photographer Teresa Halbach went missing.
The discovery of Halbach’s car in the Avery salvage lot and her remains in a fire pit behind Steve Avery’s home led to his arrest. It seems there was little evidence to convict Avery until his nephew, Brandon Dassey, came forward with a confession. After accusations of evidence being planted by the police and the confession made by Dassey being inconsistent, it was shocking to hear the jury come back with a guilty verdict for both individuals.
So, what evidence was left out of the documentary that may have led to the jury’s decision?
10. Steve Avery Specifically Requested Teresa Halbach
One of the major pieces of evidence left out of the series was originally stated by Dawn Pliszka in her testimony, and was confirmed by Angenette Levy, a local reporter featured in the documentary, in her recent interview with Rolling Stone. She states that a testimony was made which stated Avery requested that Teresa Halbach come to the car lot to take photos that day. She also remembers the testimony discussing how Halbach had already been to Avery’s home several times.
While this can seem like a strike against him, Avery supporters have pointed out the logic of this situation. He spent 18 years wrongfully behind bar, his family was shunned in the community and Avery was about to earn a lot of money from a lawsuit. It makes sense for him not to trust new people, and to request someone he was comfortable with to take photos on his property.
9. Avery Used *67 To Call Teresa
A detail left out of the documentary was that Avery uses star 67, a service which blocks phone numbers when making a call, to create an alibi. In an email sent to US 9, former Wisconsin prosecutor Ken Kratz describes this thoroughly.
“Phone records show 3 calls from Avery to Teresa’s cell phone on Oct 31. One at 2:24, and one at 2:35 – both calls Avery uses the *67 feature so Teresa doesn’t know it’s him…both placed before she arrives. Then one last call at 4:35 pm, without the *67 feature. Avery first believes he can simply say she never showed up (his original defense), so tries to establish the alibi call after she’s already been there, hence the 4:35 call. She will never answer of course, so he doesn’t need the *67 feature for that last call.”
While this may seem like a stretch, there was no indication of a theory in the documentary. There was also no mention of Avery’s defense changing. It seems in the documentary, before he’s even arrested, that he admits to Teresa Halbach showing up to take photos when being questioned by the press.
8. Teresa Halbach Was Creeped Out By Avery
There were reports that when Teresa Halbach first visited Avery’s salvage lot to take photos, he answered the door in a towel. This information came from Dawn Pliszka, Auto Trader receptionist and colleague at the time of Halbach’s murder. Although Manitowoc County Circuit Judge Patrick Willis didn’t allow her to testify due to confusion about the timeline, she was still able to speak on the record while the jury waited outside. “She had stated to me that he had come out in a towel. I just said, ‘Really?’ and then she said, ‘Yeah,’ and laughed and said kinda ‘Ew.’’
While some have viewed this as Avery coming on to Teresa, it’s clear that he posed no threat to her at this time. She was able to laugh it off and had no problem returning to the property for future work.
7. Avery’s Previous Crimes Were Glossed Over
It’s briefly mentioned in the documentary that Avery had gotten into trouble in the past. Before his first incarceration, he was arrested for both robbery and lighting a cat on fire. In the documentary Avery talks about goofing off, throwing the cat over a bonfire. He made it seem like it caught on fire by accident when the truth was that it was intentional.
Reports show that gasoline was poured on the cat before it was thrown, and he was charged with animal cruelty. In the email sent to US 9 by Kratz, he stated, “Avery’s past incident with a cat was not ‘goofing around’. He soaked his cat in gasoline or oil, and put it on a fire to watch it suffer.”
6. Two of Avery’s Brothers Were Charged With Sexual Assault
In 1988, three years after Steve Avery was sentenced to 32 years in prison for the rape of Penny Ann Beernsten, his brother Chuck was charged with sexual assault. He was acquitted, and was again charged in 1999 when his wife accused him of sexual assault and wrapping a phone cord around her neck. This sexual assault charge was eventually dismissed.
Steve’s other brother, Earl, was also accused of battery and sexual assault. He pleaded no contest, and received six years of probation. Then in 1992 he pleaded no contest to a charge of battery for attacking his wife and then received 18 months probation. He was also charged with sexual assault of a child three years later, which he pleaded no contest to. Earl spent 45 days in jail and three years on probation for that charge.
In 2009, Steve filed a report claiming his brothers were responsible for Halbach’s murder and that Chuck aggressively pursued three women who approached the Avery lot around the time of Halbach’s murder. Supporters question why these two weren’t looked at as possible suspects at the start. However, others see it as a clear pattern of violence within the Avery family, and view it as further proof of his guilt.
5. Avery Spoke Of Intent To Kill
While in prison for being wrongfully accused of rape, Avery allegedly told another inmate of his intent to build a torture chamber where he would rape and kill women after his release. In the email to US 9, Kratz states “While in prison, Avery told another inmate of his intent to build a ‘torture chamber’ so he could rape, torture and kill young women when he was released. He even drew a diagram. Another inmate was told by Avery that the way to get rid of a body is to ‘burn it’…heat destroys DNA.” And all of us who’ve seen the documentary know that Teresa Halbach’s remains were found in a burn pit on Avery’s property.
4. Avery Had Been Accused Of Rape Before
While the documentary mentioned some of Avery’s violence towards women, such as holding his cousin at gunpoint after a minor dispute, they neglected to discuss his more serious alleged crimes. A story by the Appleton Post Crescent claims Steve Avery raped a young girl and threatened to kill her family if they spoke out. The paper also reported that an older woman came out, accusing Avery of rape.
In any high profile case like this, there’s always the chance that people will come out accusing others of crimes for their own benefit. However, it is strange that it wasn’t at all addressed in the documentary.
3. Dassey Claimed Avery Molested Him
In a transcript of a phone call made from Brendan Dassey to his mother while he was in prison, he not only admits to participating in Teresa’s murder but also claims Avery forced him to do it. Dassey then admits to being touched inappropriately by his uncle, saying “Ya, I told them that. (Referring to Avery forcing him to “do a lot of things” to Teresa) I even told them about Steven touching me and that.” His mother didn’t seem to understand and Dassey explained further. “He would grab me somewhere I was uncomfortable.”
However, when reading the transcript of police interviewing Dassey, it’s clear that the kid was confused and was referring to more of a wrestling type of touching. It’s likely he was talking about more of a nut-punch than molestation. He was only calling his mother under the instruction of the police.
2. Avery Purchased Cuffs
Brendan Dassey’s confession included an explicit description of Steve Avery restraining Teresa to his bed using iron shackles. While the documentary indicated that there was no evidence that indicated this was true, it neglected to mention that leg shackles and irons were found in Avery’s home. Purchased three weeks before Teresa Halbach was murdered, they matched the description originally given by his nephew. However, when tested, there was no evidence of Halbach’s DNA. Avery claimed he owned the restraints with intent to use them on then girlfriend, Jodi.
1. There Was Proof That Remains Weren’t Moved
There were two testimonies shown in the documentary discussing the possibility of Teresa Halbach’s remains being moved after being burnt, both which seemed inconclusive. Additionally, human remains found elsewhere seemed to add to the confusion. According to Kratz’s email, there was no question that the body had been burned in that pit. “The victim’s bones in the firepit were ‘intertwined’ with the steel belts, left over from the car tires Avery threw on the fire to burn, as described by Dassey. That WAS where her bones were burned! Suggesting that some human bones found elsewhere (never identified as Teresa’s) were from this murder was NEVER established.”
“Also found in the fire pit was Teresa’s tooth (ID’d through dental records), a rivet from the ‘Daisy Fuentes’ jeans she was wearing that day, and the tools used by Avery to chop up her bones during the fire.” All which wasn’t included in the documentary.
Perhaps our questions will be answered in a followup series. Investigation Discovery has announced a special, Front Page: The Steven Avery Story, which will “present crucial testimony and information that addresses many of the questions surrounding Steven Avery,” as said in a statement by group president Henry Schleiff. We can look forward to learning more about this case when this special airs later this month.