Teresa Halbach was just 25 years old when she disappeared in 2005. Since December, her name has been on the minds of millions of strangers after the Netflix documentary Making A Murderer became a huge hit, and now her family wants to make sure her memory isn’t overshadowed by the series.
Halbach, who was a photographer, was reportedly last seen at the home of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongfully imprisoned for the sexual assault of another woman for 18 years. After his release, Avery filed a lawsuit against the state, but his freedom was short-lived. Soon after Teresa went missing, authorities began looking in the direction of the Avery estate and found her burned remains on the property. Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, are now both imprisoned for her murder but maintain their innocence, and the details of the investigation and trial have captivated audiences for weeks, as many agree with Avery’s assertion that he was framed for her murder.
But despite an abundance of sympathy for the Avery family by those who feel he is innocent, the enormity of the case and trials didn’t leave much room for the audience to get to know Teresa. Except for a handful of details about her personal life and a short video clip in which Teresa is seen talking about her life, Halbach — and how she met her grisly fate — has been mostly a mystery.
“She made me feel like I fit in,” college friend Beth told People. “Honestly, it was her smile. She made you feel like you belonged just by her nature. She had a very adventurous spirit, and she made you want to come along with her.”
Indeed, in the home movie clip of Teresa shown during the trial, she talks about knowing that at the end of her life, she would feel as though she was loved.
“She just radiated happiness and life. Even after she died so tragically – and here we are again, faced with this awful, awful tragedy 10 years later – I still can’t picture her without a smile on her face. In the end, nothing can take that away,” says friend Andy Behrendt.
Since the documentary premiered on Netflix, Steven Avery has found his share of supporters as well as detractors, including Nancy Grace, who claims she can prove that Avery is guilty. Grace has covered the case since the beginning and told The Hollywood Reporter recently that after speaking to Avery’s ex-fiance, Jodi, she believes he is capable of cold-blooded murder. Jodi was extremely supportive of Steven during the investigation, but later called him a “monster” and said he pushed her to make him look good for the documentary, threatening her with violence.
“When we first started covering the case, I had contacted so many people and we ended up getting to speak to her. She’s taking a lot of heat now, and I understand that because it’s easily argued that, well, when is she lying: then or now? However, having dealt with so many domestic violence victims, I don’t find it unusual that she chose to lie for him. Not at all,” Grace said.
Since the documentary first aired, many new allegations have come out against Avery’s character, and prosecutors have accused the filmmakers of leaving out important details from the finished product. But they say they included everything they could within the realm of things they could prove and back up.
“I think what we’re seeing now is actually history repeating itself. It’s now on a national scale that the media are demonizing this man in order to prove his guilt. What we did was we documented the Halbach case as it was unfolding. Whatever allegations against Avery you’re referencing now never came into that process at all. So it wasn’t relevant to our process. We looked at the history here,” said Laura Ricciardi.
Photo courtesy Netflix