Her murder is at the centre of the Netflix hit docuseries Making a Murderer. But as the drama focuses on Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, and speculation mounts about their innocence, we never learn much about Teresa herself. So who was she, and what had she acheived in her too-short life?
Teresa was raised on a dairy farm, 30 miles south of Green Bay, Wisconsin. She grew up close to her mother Karen, and helped her care for her two younger sisters, while her father and two brothers worked the farm.
Teresa was described as ‘a friend to everyone’ during her time at school. Afterwards she studied photography at the University of Wisconsin, where she graduated with highest honours.
Taking photos was Teresa’s passion.
‘She could do anything with a camera,’ her former boyfriend Ryan Hillegas is reported as saying. Teresa used her talent for photography to document her trips to far-flung places, such as Mexico, Spain and Australia. On her travels she threw herself into new experiences, including learning to scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef.
‘It took a lot to scare her,’ Teresa’s life-long friend Kelly Pitzen said. ‘She was a very outgoing, brave person.’
Despite Teresa’s desire to see the world, when she chose to settle it was close to home and family. She rented the house next door to the farm where she’d grown up.
In court, Teresa’s mother said her three daughters were very close, with the younger ones often going to Teresa’s house where she’d pass on clothes she’d grown out of.
‘They spent a lot of time laughing, picking on each other,’ Karen Halbach said.
Despite a successful career as a freelance photographer, Teresa found time to coach her sister’s school volleyball team. Every Sunday night she’d go to her parent’s house where she and her sisters would watch their favourite TV shows.
She was sociable and loved to sing karaoke – her favourite track reflecting her career choice was Picture by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock.
On 31 October 2005, Teresa Halbach had plans to celebrate Halloween with family, her costume was a cowgirl. She was dead before the party began. She was just 25.
One of Teresa’s last jobs was to photograph a car at the Avery Auto Salvage, for AutoTrader magazine. It was Steven Avery who had hired her.
Steven and his nephew Brendan Dassey are now both serving life sentences for Teresa’s murder.
In the speculation over their innocence or guilt following the release of Making a Murderer, one thing is for sure and that is the fact Teresa’s life ended too soon.
Her murder is at the centre of the latest murder mystery to grip the globe, but, as Teresa’s obituary states, to those that loved her she’ll be remembered ‘as the life of the party who could make anyone smile.’