Steven Avery Wiki: Dead-to-Rights Murderer or Conspiracy Victim?

 The 2015 Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer brought to public light the controversial case of Steven Avery. After spending 18 years in prison for the rape and attempted murder of a female jogger, his conviction was overturned. Then the same DNA used in his exoneration convicted him in the murder of Teresa Halbach. Is he a real killer or was he railroaded…twice? 

Steven Avery Wiki: Justice vs. Injustice

Steven Avery is a polarizing figure in American justice today. After spending 18 years in prison, he was exonerated by DNA for the rape and attempted murder of a female jogger.

About Steven Avery
Age58 Years
BirthJuly 9, 1962 Manitowoc County, Wisconsin
Weight211 lbs
SiblingsEarl Avery, Charles Avery, Barbara Janda Tadych
ParentsAllan Avery, Dolores Avery
ConvictionsFirst-degree murder
SentenceLife imprisonment without parole

After a triumphant return home, Steven Avery brought a $36.0-million civil suit against Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, and several individuals from the police department who were involved in his arrest and wrongful conviction.

Just as depositions started for the civil suit, Avery was arrested for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. The same DNA technology that helped free Avery of rape was used to convict him of murder.

In 2006, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But many believe the case wasn’t so cut and dry, and that the legal system, once again, locked up an innocent man.

The theory was fueled further by the 10-part Netflix documentary Making a Murderer that premiered on December 18, 2015.

In it, the filmmakers set forth compelling reasons why Steven Avery was innocent of the murder of Teresa Halbach. Since then, armchair detectives have either cried for his release…or his execution.

This Steven Avery wiki looks at his life and the controversy surrounding the November 2005 murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. We also look at the evidence on both sides of the coin: innocence vs. guilt. And explore alternate theories of who killed Teresa Halbach.

Read on…and decide for yourself.

Who Is Steven Avery?

Steven Avery’s life started out with potential, just like almost everyone else.

He was born on July 9, 1962 in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin to Allan and Dolores Avery. The couple had grown up in Two Rivers, marrying when they were both 16.

Allan got into the salvage business in 1965, when Steven was three. The couple turned their 40-acre farm just outside of Mishicot, Wisconsin into a giant auto salvage yard for cars and trucks.

As the company grew, so too did their family. In addition to Steven, the Averys have three other children: their oldest son Chuck; a younger brother Earl; and daughter Barbara.

Second-born Steven went to school in Mishicot but transferred to Riverview Elementary, which is 20 miles south in Manitowoc.

Riverview Elementary was, Dolores said, a school “for the slower kids.”

While Steven Avery eventually attended Mishicot High School, he only got as far at the 11th grade.

His school records indicated that his IQ was just 70 (so-called “normal” is 80 to 120). According to Making a Murderer, Avery “barely functioned in school.”

Steven Avery with parents

Steven Avery with parents (Photo: Earl Avery/

According to former Manitowoc County District Court Judge Fred Hazlewood, who presided over the trial that wrongly convicted Avery and sent him to prison for 18 years, Steven is what he is.“He’s simple. When he comes in the court, he always looks like a deer in the headlights.”

Avery still pined, it seems, for a normal life.

On July 24, 1982, he married Lori Mathiesen, a single mother. They eventually went on to have four children of their own: Rachel; Jenny; and twins Steven and Will.

Steven Avery’s Early Criminal Record

Before finding marital bliss, Steven Avery racked up an impressive rap sheet. In fact, it’s quite extensive, repugnant, and salacious.

It started when he was just 18. Avery and a friend broke into a bar and destroyed the place. But not before they stole two cases of beer, $14 in quarters, two cheese sandwiches, and a tool box.

The pair failed to elude police. Steven Avery was convicted in March 1981. He spent 10 months in a Manitowoc County jail, paid $1,399 in restitution, and was given five years of probation.

As it turned out, five years was too long for Steven Avery. Just a few months later, he and another friend were charged with animal cruelty.

The pair doused Avery’s cat with gas and oil, and threw it onto a bonfire at Avery’s Auto Salvage. Avery maintained he had nothing to do with the torturous death of his cat, but was found guilty and sent to jail for nine months.

Fast forward to January 1985, and tensions between Steven Avery and the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s department was even greater—and more personal.

That month, Avery ran Sandra Morris, his cousin and a deputy’s wife, off the road at gunpoint. He then tried to force her into his car; but had a change of heart when she told him her infant daughter was left alone in the car.

Steven Avery was given a six-year prison sentence for endangering the safety of another person.

Avery and Morris had run-ins before. She complained that Avery exposed himself to her on a number of occasions when she drove past their property.

Suffice it to say, Steven Avery’s unsavory character kept him on the local police department’s radar. This might explain why, that same summer, he was arrested for raping and attempting to kill a 36-year-old woman on a Lake Michigan beach, in the town of Two River.

Not So Petty Family Crimes

Steven isn’t the only member of the Avery family to have an extensive rap sheet. If past behavior is used to predict future actions, the entire Avery clan exhibited an increasingly disturbing trend toward the criminal.

All of the Avery siblings were charged with something. And the brothers led the way with violent criminal crimes.

In 1988, Chuck was charged with second-degree assault. He was later acquitted.

In 1998, he was found guilty of disorderly conduct related to a family argument. He was given 12 months’ probation.

He didn’t make it. Less than a year later, Chuck was charged with raping and attempting to strangle his wife with a telephone cord.

The couple agreed to defer judgement in court pending further violence by Chuck. The charge was dismissed in 2003. The couple eventually divorced.

In 1992, Earl, Steven’s younger brother, was arrested after he assaulted his wife. She said that he beat and choked her during a drunken fight.

Earl Avery with Steven Avery

Earl Avery with Steven Avery (Photo: Earl Avery/

Earl, sensing the noose tightening, entered a no-contest plea to battery. He spent 10 days in jail and 18 months on probation.

He barely made that. Three years later, Earl was charged with sexually assaulting a child.

Taking a cue from his big brother, Earl pleaded no-contest to fourth degree sexual assault and battery, and spent 45 days in jail. He was also given three years’ probation.

In November 2005, Barbara Janda Tadych, Steven Avery’s sister, was stopped by police on Highway 147, and arrested for possession of marijuana. Avery’s Auto Salvage is located just off Highway 147, about 3.5 miles north west of Mishicot.

Steven Avery Sister

Barbara Tadych (Photo: Barbara Tadych/

Janda pleaded no-contest to the misdemeanor.

For reference sake, she is the mother of Brendan Dassey, a key figure who will play a prominent role in the Steven Avery case.

The Wrong Man Spends 18 Years in Prison for Rape

Correlation is not causation. Just because Steven Avery had a dark, checkered past, it does not mean he is guilty of every crime that sounds like he could have committed.

But many people, including those in the legal community, don’t see it that way. As Avery found out. The hard way.

On July 29, 1985, at around 3:50 p.m., Penny Ann Beerntsen was out running along the peaceful Lake Michigan shoreline of Two Rivers. It was then that she was grabbed by an unknown predator, who dragged her into a wooded area and sexually assaulted her.

Beerntsen later identified a photo of Avery from an array of suspects. She also pointed to him and said he was her attacker from a lineup.

Avery was quickly arrested and put on trial.

Steven Avery Arrest Photo 1985

Steven Avery’s 1985 Mugshot; Photo: Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department

At trial, the jury heard from 16 alibi witnesses. This included a store clerk in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which is almost 50 miles north of Two Rivers, who remembered Avery buying paint with his wife, and kids. The receipt was time stamped at 5:13 p.m.

Beerntsen said she was attacked at 3:50 p.m., and that the sexual assault lasted for 15 minutes. This means that after attacking Beerntsen, Avery would have had to escape unseen from the scene of the attack, walk a mile to the closest parking area, drive home, pack up his family into the car, and drive 45 minutes…all in around one hour.

On December 14, 1985, after four hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Avery of first-degree sexual assault, false imprisonment, and attempted first-degree murder. He was given 32 years in prison.

Doubts about Avery’ s Conviction

Thanks to just one eyewitness account, Avery was sent to jail for 32 years. But many had their doubts from the outset, believing an innocent man was wrongfully convicted.

Here are the reasons one might think there’d be reasonable doubt in the case:

  • First, Penny Beerntsen was taken to a hospital and interviewed by Deputy Sheriff Judy Dvorak. Dvorak just happened to be a friend of Sandra Morris, the woman Avery ran off the road.
  • Second, Beernsten did, indeed, pick Steven Avery out of an array of mugshots, but it’s important to know what Beerntsen wasn’t shown. Not included in the photos or the lineup was Gregory Allen, a local man with a bigger police record than Steven Avery; and an M.O. that fit the Beerntsen case. Also, he resembled Avery.
  • In 1983, local Manitowoc police arrested Allen on the same Two Rivers beach Beerntsen was attacked after he stalked a woman and exposed himself.
  • That same year, Gregory Allen was prosecuted by Denis Vogel, Manitowoc County District Attorney. He was also the attorney who prosecuted Steven Avery in 1985.
  • Avery’s attorney later recounted how Vogel’s own staff believed that Allen, not Avery, was the likely attacker. Incredibly, at the time of the rape, Allen was already under surveillance by the Manitowoc Police Department as a suspect in several sex crime complaints.

“Both the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office should have been on notice that Allen was a reasonable suspect in the 1985 assault,” said the Justice Department’s review.

But for some reason, the Manitowoc County DA and Sheriff’s Department were focused on Steven Avery.

Shortly after the investigation began, Manitowoc Deputy Police Chief Thomas asked Sheriff Kocourek if he knew about Allen.

Kocourek said yes, and that Allen was ruled out as a suspect. For his part, Kocourek doesn’t remember having a discussion about it.

Lastly, both Vogel and Tom Kocourek, by that time a former Manitowoc Sheriff, eventually ended up being plaintiffs in Avery’s wrongful conviction lawsuit.

Steven Avery Exonerated of Rape and Attempted Murder

In 1995, after Avery had served 10 years in prison, an officer at the Manitowoc County Jail got a call from a detective in nearby Brown County. A prisoner had claimed that he’d sexually assaulted a woman years earlier in Manitowoc County…and that someone else was sent to jail for it.

That prisoner was Gregory Allen. Prior to the confession about the woman in Manitowoc County,  he’d been convicted of rape in Brown County and been given a 60-year sentence.

The jail officer related the message to deputies, who passed it onto Sheriff Kocourek.

He responded by saying, “We already have the right guy. Don’t concern yourself with it.”

Fortunately, someone did eventually concern themselves with it.

In April 2002, seven more years after Gregory Allen admitted to raping Penny Beerntsen, the Wisconsin Innocence Project stepped in.

Based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, the Innocence Project represents prison inmates who claim to be innocent. They often use DNA testing to build their appeals.

Despite objections from the state, the Wisconsin Innocence Project procured a court order to conduct a more up-to-date DNA test.

Using a pubic hair recovered from the rape kit, the Wisconsin crime lab determined that Avery was not the attacker. The DNA belonged to Gregory Allen.

Gregory Allen

Gregory Allen (Photo: Wisconsin Department of Corrections)

A Wisconsin court exonerated Steven Avery. On April 11, 2003, he was released from prison, becoming the poster child of the wrongfully convicted.

Steven Avery’s Life after Being Exonerated

Just because Avery was a free man, it does not mean that he didn’t have his troubles. He had difficulty coping, and was feeling depressed.

When he entered prison in 1985, he was married with four young children. When he walked out of prison a free man in 2003, he was divorced from his wife and estranged from his children.

Avery was also clashing with his brothers over how to run Avery’s Auto Salvage. He often took long drives to clear his head. Having time and space to roam had its drawbacks, though. After being cooped up in jail for 18 years, Avery first chose to live in a 10’-by-12’ ice-fishing shack on the family’s property.

“I wanted somethin’ small,” Avery said. “Everything was, I don’t know, just too big. It didn’t feel right.”

Steven Avery started to adjust, though. He and his girlfriend, Jodi Stachowski, moved into a trailer that was owned by a neighbor.

However, like his marriage to Lori Mathiesen, Steven and Jodi’s relationship could get volatile.

In September 2004, Avery was arrested for violating a disorderly conduct ordinance after having a disagreement with Stachowski. The court ordered him to stay away from Stachowski for 72 hours, and pay a $243.00 fine.

Jodi Stachowski had her own demons. She was convicted for drunk driving, driving without a license, disorderly conduct, and passing a bad check.

Things were looking up, though, said his parents. The couple was planning a wedding. And Avery worked full-time at the family’s salvage yard.

He also received $25,000 in compensation for his years of imprisonment from the Wisconsin Claims Board. Chances were good that Steven Avery would get even more, as legislators looked at increasing the cap on compensation.

Moreover, Avery launched a $36.0-million wrongful conviction lawsuit against the County of Manitowoc, its former sheriff, and former district attorney. Representing him were two of Milwaukee’s top attorneys, Stephen Glynn and Walter Kelly.

“Stevie had everything going for him – everything,” said his father Allan. “And he was happy. Like in the shop here, Christ, if I needed some help, he’d be right there. And Stevie had his own plans. He wanted to buy his own house.”

All that changed when police found the remains of Teresa Halbach on the Avery property.

Steven Avery, the Obvious Suspect in Teresa Halbach Murder

On October 31, 2005, 25-year-old Teresa Halbach disappeared.

Halbach was a photographer from Kaukauna, Wisconsin.

Teresa Avery

Teresa Avery; Photo:

For days, family, friends, and strangers handed out missing person’s flyers and searched for her. From St. John to Manitowoc to Green Bay, volunteers checked empty buildings, drainage ditches, and parking lots. But they came up empty.

On day five, Pam Sturm, a former private investigator in Green Bay and a second cousin of Teresa’s father, decided she wanted to check out the last known place Halbach was known to have been: Avery’s Auto Salvage.

Sturm knew that Halbach had an appointment with Avery on October 31 to photograph a vehicle for his ad in Auto Trader magazine.

On November 5, at around 9:50 a.m., Sturm and her daughter Nicole took the short drive from Mishicot to Avery Road, just off Highway 147. A chained-up German shepherd greeted them at the office, but no one else was there.

Outside, they saw two men in the driveway talking; one was Steven’s brother, Earl. The Sturms asked if they could look around the salvage yard for Halbach’s SUV. Earl said it would be fine.

Half an hour later, Sturm found a dark green Toyota RAV4; tree branches covered the front end, a sheet of plywood and a car hood leaned up against the side. The license plate was removed.

Steven Avery Evidence Photo RAV4

Teresa Halbech’s RAV4; Photo:

Sturm called the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department, and told them about the SUV. She gave police the VIN, who then confirmed the RAV4 belonged to Halbach.

Within minutes, law enforcement agents were at the Avery property.

Steven Avery, 43, was not at home the day Teresa Halbach’s RAV4 was found. He was at the family cabin in Crivitz helping install a tin roof.

The case quickly became national news, with CNN’s Nancy Grace interviewing Avery by telephone. He denied having any involvement and suggested he’d been set up.

Police Search Halbach’s SUV and the Avery Property

Avery returned to Manitowoc County three days later, a big bandage wrapped around his right hand. Police took control of the Avery property and prevented the family, including Steven, from entering.

During the initial search of Avery’s home, police confiscated two guns that hung above his bed: a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle, and a .50-caliber deer-hunting rifle.

The next day, November 9, Avery drove to his brother’s house in Melnick. Parked in the driveway was a special agent with the state’s Division of Criminal Investigations, along with a Calumet County sheriff’s detective.

Avery was arrested for possession of firearms because he was a convicted felon.

Over the following days, investigators found a mountain of evidence: blood inside the car, and charred bone fragments in a fire pit outside Steven Avery’s trailer. Police also found the remnants of a cell phone and camera in a barrel used to incinerate trash.

Burn Pit at Avery Property

Firepit Where Remains Were Found; Photo:

Detectives seized other potential evidence, including hair and fiber samples, an Auto Trader magazine, hand tools, duct tape, and a necklace, vacuum cleaner, claw hammer, blanket, plastic pail, and golf cart.

Police found Teresa Halbach’s license plates in a scrapped car on Avery’s property, a spent rifle casing in his garage, along with a pair of handcuffs and leg irons in his house. In his bathroom, they found dried blood on the surface of the vanity.

On November 8, Calumet County deputy Daniel Kucharski and two investigators returned to the property to search Avery’s trailer.

An hour into this search, Manitowoc County Sheriff James Lenk stumbled on the ignition key to the RAV4 on the floor of Steven Avery’s bedroom.

Steven Avery Case: RAV4 Key

RAV4 Key; Photo:

Meanwhile, a team of forensic experts found blood in Halbach’s car; on the back seat panel, steering column, and center console. An analysis determined that blood from the car matched Steven Avery; sweat on the car key also matched Avery’s.

Throughout the investigation, Avery maintained his innocence. In interviews with the press, he expressed his belief that he was being set up by those who wanted to hinder his $36.0-million wrongful conviction lawsuit against the County of Manitowoc, its former sheriff, and former district attorney.

Steven Avery Arrested

On November 11, 2005, Steven Avery was formally charged with Teresa Halbach’s murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault and with mutilating a corpse.

When all this happened, his girlfriend Jodi was in jail in Manitowoc on a DUI.

His family believed that he was innocent. His two lawyers continued on with Avery’s civil lawsuit. They settled that lawsuit in 2006 for $400,000.

Did Nephew Brendan Dassey Help Avery Murder Halbach?

What no one knew was that, since Halloween 2005, Brendan Dassey, 16, had been keeping a terrible secret. Over a four-month period, he lost 30 pounds. One day in February, he told a friend at Mishicot High School that he was feeling suicidal.

Later that month, when Barbara Janda Tadych, Dassey’s mother, was speaking to investigators, she mentioned that her son stained his pants while helping his uncle Steven clean his garage floor the previous Halloween.

The next day, February 27, detectives hauled Dassey in to be interviewed. They interviewed him again on March 1.

Dassey, who is considered to be intellectually and emotionally challenged and highly suggestible, was interviewed by police without any legal representation, parent, or other adult present.

Brendan Dassey

Brendan Dassey (Photo: Wisconsin Department of Corrections)

Over an extended period of time, Dassey was questioned about the murder, with police interrogators promising to “help” him and not “leave him high and dry” if he confessed to the murder. Dassey was also lied to by police; they told Dassey they already knew that he was guilty, and they could only help him out if he confessed.

Throughout the interviews, investigators asked a large number of leading questions and prompted Dassey when they weren’t getting the information from him that they needed.

Related: Brendan Dassey Wiki: Heinous Murderer or Innocent Pawn?

On March 1, detectives found the jeans Dassey wore when he helped Steven Avery clean his garage floor.

On March 2, Brendan Dassey was charged with being a party to three felonies:

  • First-degree sexual assault
  • First-degree intentional homicide
  • Mutilating a corpse

A Timeline of Teresa Halbach’s Last Day

Based on details provided by Dassey and others, it was looking more and more like Avery had murdered Halbach. And less and less like there was any attempted cover-up or conspiracy to set Steven Avery up for a murder he didn’t commit.

Below is a timeline of what police think happened to Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005:

  • Steven Avery called Auto Trader to set up an appointment with a photographer; he asked them the “send the girl who was out here before.” He used his sister’s first initial and last name, “B. Janda.”
  • On October 31, 2005, at around 2:30 p.m., Halbach called Auto Trader before arriving at the Avery property. She parked her RAV4 between Steven Avery’s trailer and the garage, and knocked on his front door. When no one answered, she went to the opposite side of the trailer and knocked on the patio door.
  • Whether by choice or force, she entered Avery’s trailer.
  • At 3:45 p.m., a school bus dropped off Brendan Dassey on Avery Road. Dassey checked the mail and decided to drop off an envelope addressed to his uncle Steven.
  • As he rode his bike to Avery’s trailer, Dassey noticed a RAV4 parked by his uncle’s garage, as well as a cell phone and digital camera in the burn barrel.
  • Dassey could hear screams coming from Steven Avery’s trailer.
  • Dassey knocked on the trailer door. Steven Avery opened it, half-dressed, covered in sweat. He invited Dassey in, and told him he’d been having sex with a woman.
  • Avery asked Dassey if he wants “to get some of that?”
  • Dassey was led into Avery’s bedroom, where he found Teresa Halbach laying face up on the bed, naked, and bound with leg irons and handcuffs.
  • Halbach begged to be released.
  • Dassey then raped Halbach as Avery watched.
  • Afterwards, Avery and Dassey went into the living room and watched TV.
  • It was then that Avery told his nephew he was going to kill Halbach.
  • 10 minutes later, the two returned to the bedroom with a butcher knife. Avery stabbed Teresa in the stomach.
  • Avery passed the knife to Dassey and told him to “cut her neck.” Dassey did.
  • Avery told Dassey to cut off some of her hair. Again, Dassey obeyed.
  • Halbach was still alive at this point, so Avery choked her for two to three minutes.
  • He then went into the bathroom to clean up.
  • The two unshackled Halbach’s dead body, tied her up, and carried her to the garage where they place the body in the back of Halbach’s SUV.
  • Avery wanted to dump Halbach’s body in a pond on the property, but it was dry. Instead, he decided to burn it in a fire pit behind the garage.
  • Before taking Halbach’s body to the smoldering fire pit, Avery laid it on the garage floor. He then fired 10 rounds from his .22 semi-automatic rifle into Halbach’s body.
  • The two used Dolores Avery’s golf cart to collect old tires, brush, and a wooden cabinet as fuel to burn Halbach’s body.
  • Avery drove Halbach’s RAV4 to a far corner of the salvage yard, and hid the ignition key in a drawer in the trailer. The two removed the bedding and tossed it on the fire.
  • Dassey then helped his uncle clean up blood on the garage floor. He splashed bleach on his jeans.
  • Dassey’s mother called to check in on him. He left to go home at 10:00 p.m.; the following day was a school day.
Avery Property

Avery Property; Photo:

Steven Avery’s Prosecution

Steven Avery’s defense team tried to argue that Manitowoc County investigators had planted evidence to frame Avery.

Jurors thought otherwise.

On March 18, 2007, Steven Avery was found guilty of first-degree murder and illegal possession of a firearm. He was acquitted of mutilating a corpse. Charges of kidnapping and sexual assault were dropped in pre-trial hearings.

Avery was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was also given five years on the weapons charge, to run concurrently.

Brendan Dassey later recanted his confession, saying it was coerced. He refused to testify at Steven Avery’s trial.

In a separate April 2007 trial, Dassey was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, rape, and mutilating a corpse. He was sentenced to life and will be eligible for parole in 2048.

“Making a Murderer” Highlights Innocence & Corruption

While the Steven Avery case attracted some attention, it wasn’t until the 2015 Netflix documentary Making a Murderer premiered that it really gained traction.

The first season, filmed over 10 years, follows Steven Avery’s first conviction for rape and subsequent DNA exoneration.

The documentary also delves into the events after Teresa Halbach’s murder and potential police corruption.

The handling of Halbach’s murder was the most controversial part of the documentary, with Steven Avery and his lawyers arguing that he had been set up once again. On top of that, Avery suggested the murder charge was a way of foiling his $36.0-million civil suit.

Avery’s attorneys accused Manitowoc officials of tampering with evidence and, at the very least, having a conflict of interest investigating Teresa Halbach’s murder.

The last episode of the season ends with Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey being found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.

Proof Steven Avery Is Innocent?

Some have accused Making a Murderer of being biased, while others praised it for its objectivity and shining a light on Avery being wrongfully convicted for a second time. Many came to believe that not only did authorities mishandle Steven Avery’s 1985 conviction for sexual assault, but they also (allegedly) set him up for the murder of Teresa Halbach.

“There are 36 million reasons why they should be doing this to him,” Avery’s brother, Chuck, told The New York Times in 2005. This is, of course, in reference to the $36.0-million civil lawsuit Avery was pursuing at the time.

Below are just some of the reasons why many think Steven Avery is innocent in the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Evidence Allegedly Planted by Police

Steven Avery’s former defense team of Dean Strang and Jerry Buting do not dispute that there is a bullet with Halbach’s DNA on it, or that Avery’s blood was found in her SUV or the ignition key with Avery’s blood on it.

What they do dispute is how that evidence got there. Strang and Buting say it was planted by police.

Avery’s house was searched several times early on in the investigation. But the ignition key to Halbach’s SUV only turned up eight days after she disappeared, during a much later search. The key was found by Lt. James Lenk, a member of the Manitowoc County Police.

The problem is…Manitowoc County wasn’t supposed to take part in searches of the Avery property. This was due to the conflict of interest created by Avery’s lawsuit against them.

The miraculous discovery of Halbach’s car key fueled speculation that police had set Avery up.

Furthermore, forensics found Avery’s DNA on it—but it did not have any of Halbach’s DNA or fingerprints on it.

During a court hearing, it was revealed that the detectives helping Calumet County deputy Daniel Kucharski were Manitowoc County deputies, both of whom had been subpoenaed to testify in Avery’s wrongful conviction suit.

The defense team also claimed that a vial of Avery’s blood, which was taken during the review of the 1985 rape case, had provided police with the opportunity to further implicate Avery. According to Avery’s former lawyers, officers placed his blood in Halbach’s car, on the car key, and on a bullet.

Blood Evidence in Halbach’s Car

Investigators found Halbach’s blood next to Avery’s in her SUV. Which doesn’t make sense.

According to the prosecution, Avery killed Halbach in the garage, then burned the body in the fire pit. He never transported her body in the RAV4.

Blood Splatter

Avery’s new defense attorney, Kathleen Zellner says blood splatter tests prove the blood was all planted. She did not say police planted it: “…we’re saying the killer planted the blood.”

Zellner and a bloodstain pattern analyst recreated much of the scene, using real blood, the actual sink from Avery’s trailer, and a RAV4 of the same make and model as Halbach’s.

Their tests undermined what prosecutors claim. First, flakes of blood were found on top of the carpet by the driver’s side floor. But tests confirm that fresh blood would have soaked into the carpet rather than leaving flakes on top of the fibers.

She hypothesized that dried blood was removed from the sink in Avery’s bathroom (he previously said the blood in the bathroom was a result of an injury from a work accident that frequently broke open), and transported to the carpet in the RAV4, where it conveniently sat on top of the fibers.

Avery did not, as prosecutors contend, bleed directly onto the carpet from a cut finger into the car.

As for the bloodstain on the center console, the blood splatter analyst said that tests indicating fresh blood in the RAV4 near the ignition shows they were most likely planted using a Q-tip, and not accidentally.

Steven Avery Case: Bloodstain in Halbach Car

Bloodstain in RAV4;

“To a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, Mr. Avery would not have deposited blood at that location with his right middle finger while turning the key in the ignition,” Stuart James, the bloodstain analyst, wrote in his affidavit.

As for those who contend it would take a lot of work to plant the blood, James said he was able to stage the blood in the RAV4 in less than three minutes.

Moreover, James also noted that if Avery did drive the RAV4 when he was bleeding, he would have left blood and bloody fingerprints in more places.

Lack of Blood Evidence in Steven Avery’s Bedroom

Prosecutors contend that Dassey slit Halbach’s throat while she was tied to the bed. But no blood was found on the mattress or floor. Or anywhere else in the bedroom.

Steven Avery Bed

Steven Avery’s Bed; Photo:

Teresa’s Car Was Planted

Earl Avery, Steven’s younger brother, believes Teresa’s SUV could have been planted on the Avery property.

He drove through the area where the RAV4 was found the night of October 31, the night Halbach went missing. Her Toyota RAV4 was not there.

Days later, Pamela Sturm, Halbach’s second cousin, searched the property and located it. It wasn’t very well hidden, crudely covered in branches and car parts.

If Earl’s recollection is correct, the car was planted sometime in between October 31 and when Sturm found it five days later.

But is this even possible? According to Steven Avery, there are a couple back roads that lead to the property, making it easy for someone to secretly drive the car there and hide it.

Bullet DNA Evidence Planted

Police recovered a bullet with Halbach’s DNA on it in the garage. Sherry Culhane, the DNA analyst who tested the bullet, found traces of Halbach’s DNA on the bullet. She also found traces of her own DNA in the control samples. Meaning, the test was tainted.

Her lab could not run the test again, which is laboratory protocol, because she ‘d used up the entire sample in her first test.

Interestingly, the bullet that tested positive for Halbach’s DNA was not recovered until five months after she died. Despite numerous searches of the garage that turned up other bullets and casings, the one with Halbach’s DNA on it was not found until March 2016.


According to family members, Avery and Dassey were seen during the time in which Halbach was allegedly raped, killed, and her body incinerated. Avery also had a receipt from Burger King, and eyewitnesses placed him there during the same time.

Other Suspects

If Steven Avery didn’t kill Teresa Halbach, who did?

There are a large number of theories on who killed Teresa Halbach:

  • Some claim rogue cops killed Teresa Halbach and burned her body, while others suggest Avery was set up by federal operatives.
  • Avery himself suggests an ex-con from Manitowoc he met in prison, who was arrested five days after Halbach went missing for attacking a woman with an ax, should be investigated.
  • According to a new documentary series, It Was Him: The Many Murders of Ed Edwards, there could be a single link between the murders of Teresa Halbach, the Black Dahlia, Zodiac, Laci Peterson, and JonBenet Ramsey.
  • Kathleen Zellner, Avery’s new defense attorney, accused Teresa Halbach’s ex-boyfriend, Ryan Hillegas, of killing her. While Hillegas was never a suspect, she provided a number of reason why Hillegas is most likely her killer in a 220-page motion: he has no alibi, provided false information, downplayed how serious his five-year on-again-off-again relationship with Halbach was, gave a fake name to gain access to the Avery property while it was under police control, accessed Halbach’s phone records after she disappeared (evidence voice messages were deleted), was emotionally and physically abusive with Teresa Halbach, received injuries to his hands during time Halbach was murdered, and was jealous that she broke up with him and moved on.

Related: Ed Edwards Docu-Series Explores Serial Killer Mastermind Theories

Does This Prove Steven Avery Did It?

Because Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were convicted, there is obviously enough evidence to say they did kill Teresa Halbach.

Ken Kratz, the former Wisconsin prosecutor who helped put Avery away, denies railroading Avery and Dassey. and defends his handling of the case.

Below are just a few reasons why people, including Kratz, think Steven Avery is guilty of murdering Teresa Halbach.

Steven Avery Targeted Teresa Halbach

Halbach had been to the Avery property on multiple occasions to take photos for Auto Trader.

On October 10, Halbach went there again to take pictures for the magazine. Steven Avery answered the door wearing a towel. The photographer said she would not go back to the Avery property because she was scared of Steven.

On October 31, at 8:12 a.m., Avery called Auto Trader and asked them to send Teresa Halbach over to take pictures of his sister’s car.  Avery gave his sister’s name and phone number to the Auto Trader receptionist instead of his own. It worked. In a voicemail later that day, she said she didn’t know where she was going, or whom she was meeting.

Avery Used *67 When Calling Halbach

On October 31, Avery made three calls to Halbach’s cell phone. The first two were made at 2:24 p.m. and 2:35 p.m; both calls were made before she showed up. Avery used the *67 feature so Halbach didn’t know it was him calling.

Avery called Halbach again at 4:35 p.m. By this time, she was already there. He didn’t use the *67 feature, because he knew she would not answer. Avery believes he established an iron-clad alibi.

Forensic Evidence Matched Avery’s Gun

Despite claims by the defense, prosecutors maintain that forensic evidence matches Avery’s gun. Two bullets were found: one was flattened, and the other was intact with DNA on it.

Steven Avery 22-Calibre Rifle

Avery’s 22-Calibre Rifle; Photo:

In Dassey’s interview with police, he said Steven Avery used a gun that hung above his bed. The gun was confiscated by officers on November 5, 2005, and tied forensically to the bullet with Halbach’s DNA on it.

The fired bullet was found in the garage in March 2006. According to Kratz, “If they planted it, how did they get a bullet that was shot from Avery’s gun before Nov. 5?”

Evidence on Hood Latch

Making a Murderer described that Avery’s blood found in Halbach’s car was possibly planted by police. But forensics found more than blood. DNA from Steven Avery’s sweat was found on the key, and the hood latch of the RAV4 was found on Avery’s property.

The defense might be able to explain how the blood could have been planted on the hood latch by the police who had access to a vial of his blood, but sweat was never mentioned.

Brendan Dassey’s Testimony Matches Evidence Found in Fire

During his interviews with police, Dassey explained how he and Avery burned Halbach’s body, and covered it with old tires, brush, and wood. Investigators found Halbach’s’ charred bones in the fire pit “intertwined” with the steel belts from the car tires they threw over Halbach’s body.

Investigators found a tooth belonging to Teresa Halbach, and a rivet from the jeans she was wearing the day she was murdered. Police also found the tools Avery used to dismember Halbach during the fire.

Teresa Avery Bone Fragments

Some of the Bone Fragments from Avery’s Firepit; Photo:

Steven Avery’s Fight for Freedom

Avery is currently serving his life sentence in the Waupun Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin.

He’s not up for parole until 2048. If he lives that long, he’ll be nearing 90 then.

Steven Avery has continued to fight his conviction, with no success so far.

In August 2011, his petition for a new trial was turned down by a state appeals court.

In 2013, a motion put to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review the state appeals’ court decision was denied.

In 2016, Avery’s previous savior, the Midwest Innocence Project, and attorney Kathleen Zellner filed another appeal. This was denied in 2017.

Zellner also made a motion for further scientific testing of evidence in 2016, which was granted.

The attorney filed a further post-conviction motion in June 2017, basically throwing doubt on the evidence and testimony from the first trial and seeking a new trial.

See Motion for Post-Conviction Relief for Steven Avery

Her request was turned down.

Will There Be a “Making a Murderer” Season 2?

Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey might be in jail, but the jury may always be out for some as to whether or not they really are guilty of raping and murdering Teresa Halbach.

Perhaps the much-anticipated follow-up to Making a Murderer will shed some new light?

Documentary filmmaker Shawn Rech is planning an eight-part series called Convicting a Murderer. It’s currently in production.

Convicting a Murderer is expected to delve back into the Teresa Halbach case, with new information from representatives of the law enforcement side, who didn’t take part in Making a Murderer.  Rech plans to offer a more balanced view of the investigation, trial, and conviction of Steven Avery.

It hasn’t been confirmed whether Netflix will offer the series sequel. The release date for Convicting a Murderer is still to be announced.