Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” has been in news reports constantly since it began broadcasting in December 2015. Many viewers of the series appear to be certain that Steven Avery (53) is not guilty of the murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach. However, there are many people of northeast Wisconsin who knew both of them are not so sure. The version of events described by the Netflix series differs widely from the account offered by the prosecutors, who were successful in getting Avery sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Eight years after Avery and nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted of Halbach’s brutal murder, controversy over their fates has raged. Dassey was 16 years old at the time of the murder.
It has been revealed that Halbach had started her own successful photography business and was also moonlighting for Auto Trader Magazine by shooting photos of vehicles. She was doing well enough in her own business that in 2005, Halbach gave the magazine her two-week notice. Halbach also informed her clients, including Avery – whose property she had visited several times – of her decision to stop taking pictures for Auto Trader.
Even though Halbach had visited Avery’s property some 15 times before, she became concerned when Avery answered the door on one of her last visits wearing only a towel. It was then that she told Auto Trader that she didn’t want to return. However, the magazine begged her to go, just one last time.
Prosecutor Ken Kratz said after he won the case that Avery had "targeted" Halbach with sexual advances. A friend said Halbach had a bad feeling about Avery. Halbach told her friend, “He creeps me out.”
On the day of her brutal murder, the appointment at the Avery family’s auto junkyard was the last of four. Later, police discovered her charred mortal remains in a burn pit behind a trailer on the Avery property.
Complicating the story of the murder attributed to him, Avery says not only that he is innocent but he was framed because he had filed a $36 million lawsuit against the county and local authorities.
A team of journalists from USA TODAY and elsewhere who covered the Avery death. Led by Joel Christopher, the team that the facts of the case remain cloudy. Christopher wrote on the USATODAY website about what he considers a certainty, that “Three families were torn apart by Teresa’s terrible death and none of them will ever be made whole again no matter what happens in the justice system.” He considers that the law enforcement agencies involved in the case are “at best tone-deaf to public perception and at worst terrifyingly corrupt. There is the smug and now-disgraced district attorney who seemed to relish the media attention more than the pursuit of truth.”
He believes that the Avery case is more complex than the “black-and-white versions” offered by prosecutors in the Chilton, Wisconsin, court in 2007, or in the current Netflix series.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals will hear on February 11 motions Avery filed on January 11 concerning his conviction. The documents claim that because his property was subjected to an illegal search, any evidence gathered there on November 5, 2005 cannot be used against him. Referring to his exoneration in 2003 from rape charges, after spending 18 years in prison, Avery is arguing that the "the true controversy was never tried" in the homicide case against him.
A petition is now at WhiteHouse.gov that is seeking a federal investigation of the case. So far, requests for a pardon for Avery from President Barack Obama or Gov. Scott Walker have been for naught.
"This petition calls for a federal investigation of the Sheriff's Offices of Manitowoc County and Calumet County, Wisconsin, regarding their handling of the Teresa Halbach investigation and their prosecution of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, as featured in the documentary entitled Making a Murderer," the petition's creator wrote. Gov. Walker, a Republican, has vowed not to issue pardons. Obama has no jurisdiction to pardon non-federal crimes. Avery’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner and Tricia Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project are the defense. "We are confident Mr. Avery's conviction will be vacated when we present the new evidence and results of our work to the appropriate court," Zellner said in a statement.