Making a Murderer is a 10-part documentary that was released by Netflix on 18 December 2015. Since then, it’s become the most talked about true crime series in memory. The first season follows the story of Steven Avery. He is serving a life sentence for murder without the possibility of parole. To this day, Avery still maintains his innocence.
Who is Steven Avery?
Steven’s family had a reputation within the Manitowoc County community. They owned a local scrap yard and the police had reason to pay close attention to Steven from his teenage years.
At the age of 18, Avery pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced to 10 months in prison. Aged 20 he was jailed again, this time for animal cruelty after pouring gasoline on a cat and throwing it alive into a fire.
In 1985, Avery was charged with assaulting his cousin – the wife of a Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputy – and also charged with possessing firearms.
Later that year Avery was arrested and charged with the assault and attempted rape of Penny Beernsten, a case, it seems, that was never investigated properly by the police. Another known criminal’s name was given to the Sheriff’s department, in connection to the assault, but the lead was never followed up. The police sketch-artist at the time allegedly drew an e-fit of the perpetrator from Avery’s previous mugshot.
Steven Avery was convicted of the crime, for which he spent 18 years in prison. Throughout his sentence, he always protested his innocence and exhausted all appeals. Yet years later, new DNA evidence proved he had not committed the sexual assault on Beernsten and in 2003 he was released from prison.
The Wisconsin Innocence Project who took Avery’s case, went on to file a $36 million (£24 million) civil lawsuit against Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction.
On 31 October 2005 Teresa Halbach went missing on the same day the state legislators passed the Avery Bill to prevent wrongful convictions.
On 11 November 2005 Steven Avery was charged with the murder of Teresea Halbach. Sixteen-months later he was convicted of the crime and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.
What happened to Teresa Halbach?
On 31 October 2005 photographer Teresa Halbach, 25, visited three homes in the Manitowoc County area. Her last stop was to Steven Avery’s family garage. According to Avery, she took photos of a Dodge Caravan so it could be advertised for sale, then left. This was the last day Teresa Halbach was seen alive. Three days later, she was reported missing. Steven Avery quickly became the number one suspect.
On 10 November 2005 a statement was released saying Teresa’s remains had been found in a burn pit near Avery’s trailer. Calumet County Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz charged Avery with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse and possession of firearms by a felon.
Four months after Halbach vanished, authorities arrested Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, as a co-conspirator. Dassey, the son of Avery’s sister, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide, sexual assault and mutilating a corpse.
Steven Avery’s trial involved several County officers who had been linked to his wrongful conviction in 1985, who truly believed he was guilty of the attempted rape of Penny Beernsten. It’s since been questioned whether these officers should have been allowed to be so closely involved.
Avery’s defense team argued that evidence had been planted by officers keen to see Avery locked up. However on 1 June 2007, Avery, then 44, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in connection with Teresa’s death.
Just two months later, Brendan Dassey was sentenced to life in prison. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2048.
The evidence against Avery
Avery has a violent past
The documentary mentioned Avery assaulted his cousin, however the list of violence apparently didn’t end there.
Avery once greeted Halbach wearing only a towel
The 25 year old was allegedly ‘creeped out’ and told a colleague she wouldn’t work with Avery again. This information was excluded from Avery’s trial, as the judge ruled the information about the incident was unclear.
Avery requested Halbach as the photographer
During the trial the prosecutors argued that Avery knew Halbach was wary of him. Each time he used a different name when he called and specifically asked for Halbach. Yet Halbach had visited the Avery residence six times that year to photograph cars for AutoTrader magazine.
Avery called Halbach three times on the day she went missing
Avery made three phone calls to Halbach the same day she went missing. Prosecutors argued that this was evidence of Avery attempting to lure her back to his home. For two of the phone calls, phone records indicated that Avery hid his caller ID by using *67.
Avery’s sweat was found in Halbach’s car
In Making a Murderer they talk about Avery’s blood in Halbach’s car and the possibility it was planted by the police. However it is barely mentioned that traces of his sweat were also found.
Avery admitted to owning restraining tools
Avery had ordered leg irons and handcuffs – items which matched what Dassey had described to the police that were allegedly used to tie Halbach to Avery’s bed. When tested Halbach’s DNA wasn’t found.
Avery allegedly sexually abused Dassey
In a phone conversation to his mother, Dassey admitted his role in Halbach’s murder, a confession he later retracted. The documentary cut out an important revelation during that phone call, in which Dassey said his uncle had inappropriately touched him.
Avery’s rifle was linked to a vital bullet
The bullet found with Halbach’s DNA was forensically linked to Avery’s gun. Was the DNA planted or did he really shoot her?
The last word
In Making a Murderer, Avery has the last word, saying: ‘They think I’ll stop working on it and it’ll be forgotten. That’s what they think, but I want the truth. I want my life. But they keep on taking it. I’m gonna keep on working even if it’s wrong. I ain’t gonna give up. When you know you’re innocent, you will keep on going. The truth always comes out sooner or later.’
Many viewers have strong opinions about the Making a Murderer series and have even started devising their own theories. One thing’s for sure…this is a tragic case involving the loss of Teresa Halbach’s life.
Do you think Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are guilty? Or do you believe there has been a second miscarriage of justice? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.