As convicted murderer Steven Avery’s post-conviction lawyer continues her push to win him a new trial in the killing of Teresa Halbach, his early statements to police may reveal that he could not keep his story straight about what happened on his property on Halloween 2005.
Avery is one of two main subjects of the Netflix series Making a Murderer, the documentary that has spawned millions of armchair detectives and just a many on-the-fly legal experts. He claims he and nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted of first-degree murder as part of a setup by sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors, Wisconsin Crime Lab investigators, and a host of others he says planted and manufactured evidence.
Avery still maintains he was framed, and that he could not have killed the 25-year-old photographer as the state claims because she left his property after spending only a few minutes taking pictures.
But according to documents, Avery may have been planning to run with a different story: that Teresa Halbach never showed up to photograph his sister’s van.
According to at least one Auto Trader employee, Avery called the publication between 4:30 and 5 p.m., November 3,–the day Halbach was reported missing–and asked to reschedule his appointment because Teresa was a no-show. Later that day, he told Manitowoc County Lt. Andrew Colborn that Halbach was on his property for only a few minutes and left around 2:30 p.m, when he says she turned left toward Wisconsin Highway 147. Avery told the same story in a TV interview after speaking to Colborn.
The reason for the puzzling call to Auto Trader may lie in the period between when it was made and Steven Avery’s first meeting with police.
“The story was going to be that she never showed up,” former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said. “That changes the first time her realizes Bobby Dassey saw her. He realizes after talking to Bobby and Barb [Janda] that Bobby Dassey saw her taking photos and that Bobby Dassey saw her walking toward the trailer.”
Bobby Dassey testified that he was about to take a shower when he saw Teresa Halbach photograph his mother’s van and walk toward Avery’s trailer. When he left to go bow hunting a few minutes later, he saw Halbach’s SUV but not her or his uncle.
Avery told Marinette County Sheriff’s Detective Anthony O’Neill on November 6, 2005 that he spoke to Bobby, who lived in Barb’s house next door, at 11 a.m. After Halbach left around 2:30 p.m., Avery said he went to his trailer, placed a copy of Auto Trader by his computer and went to talk to Bobby again but noticed he wasn’t there.
However, Bobby Dassey testified that he slept until 2 p.m. that day, and never mentioned talking to Avery.
Bobby, along with Scott Tadych, was named in attorney Kathleen Zellner’s latest motion as a potential suspect in the Halbach killing. Zellner claims both men lied on the stand during Avery’s trial–Dassey about not seeing Teresa Halbach leave the property, and Tadych about Avery’s bonfire. Zellner claims Bobby told his older brother, Bryan, that he saw Teresa drive away, a claim he refutes.
“[Bobby] was pressured by the family before he even testified,” Kratz said. “But, he was unwilling to change his testimony that not only did he observe Teresa Halbach, but that he observed her walking toward the trailer before he took a shower and that her car was still at the Avery location when he leaves for hunting, but she was nowhere in sight. Bobby is a family member who was not trying to implicate anyone. In fact, he would have rather not have been involved.”
Avery also did not mention a bonfire during his November 6 interview, and initially denied there were burn barrels on the property. It wasn’t until O’Neill asked him whether there were barrels near his home did he acknowledge them. It had been two weeks since he burned anything in the barrels, Avery said.
Avery told Calumet County Investigator Mark Wiegert on November 9 that he had burned old tires and some brush near his garage a week before Halloween but nothing the week Teresa Halbach went missing.
Although he now maintains that he and Brendan Dassey had a bonfire on October 31, Avery made no mention of Brendan during his November 9 interview, after which he was arrested. He said after Teresa Halbach left, his mother brought him his mail and that he walked to Barb’s garage to see a deer someone killed with a car. He then listened to music and watched pornography before going to sleep. He later tells Wiegert he saw the deer in his sister’s garage on Friday, November 4.
Steven Avery is not the only one who initially denied having a Halloween bonfire. Brendan Dassey started his first interaction with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department on November 6 by saying a bonfire scheduled for Thursday, November 3, had been canceled.
Brendan said he saw Teresa Halbach taking pictures when he got home from school at 3:45 p.m., and saw her leave. He then said that was a lie, eventually telling O’Neill that two or three hours after Halbach left the property, Avery asked him to help him move a vehicle into his garage.
While his statements were slightly inconsistent, Scott Tadych testified to seeing a bonfire behind Avery’s garage twice on October 31. Brendan Dassey and Steven Avery now claim Brendan was home before 9 p.m., and that Avery went to sleep after receiving a call from his ex-fiancee, who was in the Manitowoc County Jail. Both men are currently serving life sentences, Avery without parole.
[Featured Image By Mike De Sisti/AP Images]