‘Making a Murderer’ recap: Facts, evidence and theories

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Netflix’s original true crime drama series, “Making a Murderer,” is 10 hours of bubbling frustration, not only for the audience but for the key players involved in the Steven Avery case the show followed for 10 years.

The beginning of the series follows a young Steven Avery, talkative, blonde and heavy-set, and the son of Allan and Dolores Avery, who own Avery Auto in Manitowoc County, Wis. We meet the seemingly tight-knit extended Avery family, riddled with small town Wisconsin colloquialism, all residing on Avery Rd.

While there is a brief mention of Steven’s past criminal history, a couple of robberies and an incident with a cat thrown across a bonfire, the true emphasis begins in 1985 when Steven is charged with the sexual assault of Penny Beerntsen. After 18 years in prison, Avery is finally released once DNA from a single pubic hair from the incident proves his innocence.

Once released, Avery begins to work with the Innocence Project as well as start a $36 million federal lawsuit against Manitowoc County. In the wake of several sheriffs, officers and detectives continuing what Avery’s civil lawyer at the time referred to as a “conspiracy of silence” during their depositions, Avery is arrested for the murder of a missing girl named Teresa Halbach. From there, the show jumpstarts into the case against Avery and the defense’s argument that police planted evidence to frame Avery for this murder.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Evidence against Avery

A bulk of this series heavily zooms in on the court case of Steven Avery v. The State of Wisconsin. Throughout the lengthy investigation and trial, certain evidence including Halbach’s Rav 4 covered by trees branches, parked on a ledge of the Avery junkyard, her keys soaked in Steven’s DNA found in his bedroom and Steven’s blood found in her car were found within an 8 day search of the Avery property. Later, in the garage more incriminating evidence sprung up, causing the prosecution to close with a theory that Avery killed Halbach in the garage, where .22 caliber fragmented shells were found, before burning her body.

Avery’s defense

The defense immediately jumped onto the key theory, noting that the key was found after the house was torn apart for days as well as lacked Halbach’s DNA. A key owned by the victim for years should have her DNA on it, not just Avery’s unless hers was scrubbed off while his was added on. Defense lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting also went into detail about the distorted timelines of the investigation and the heavy volunteered involvement of the Manitowoc County law enforcement. Another discovery Strang and Buting thought was a defense gold mine was the blood sample from Avery’s 1985 case that looked tampered with, including a small hole at the top of the vile possibly indicating a hypodermic needle.

Questionable witness

Things got dicey when 16-year-old Brendan Dassey, nephew to Steven, confessed to special investigator Tom Fassbender that he helped Steven rape and kill Halbach, chaining her to a bed and sexually assaulting her before cutting her throat and shooting her in the head. However, Dassey’s story constantly changed with whomever he spoke to. After so many different variations, it was difficult to juggle truth versus fiction that Dassey was possibly creating out of either fear of law enforcement or the possible challenges he faced with his learning disabilities. The majority of Dassey’s defense claimed he felt he was to confess what Fassbender wanted to hear, whether or not it was the truth.

After a trial that seemed to lack certainty and call into question whether or not certain individuals could be trusted in the investigation, the jury convicted Steven Avery of murder in the first degree. In Dassey’s later trial, he was also convicted of the murder of Hallbach.

Media coverage

On of the most important aspects of the film that also came up in the trial was the role of the media. Throughout the series the audience sees reporters following the Avery family and lawyers from outside the courthouse on snowy Wisconsin nights all the way to their cars just for a statement. News stations across the country had continuous updates on Steven and Brendan before the trial was even held.

Reporters are eager to ask the prosecution and defense questions on the case matter, jumping in quickly to offer their own perspective on guilt or innocence. The stand the show seemed to have taken is that the media helped perpetuate a guilty verdict for Steven Avery. What is considered a fair trial is a trial without previous discernment on guilty or innocent and Avery came into the trial that everyone in America already heard vast opinions on in the nightly news.

To play armchair detective…

After binge watching all 10 episodes over a weekend, I have jumped onto the bandwagon of discerning for myself who killed Teresa Halbach.

Considering what individuals would have full use of the property without question and had the most eerily similar stories, my theory rests that Brendan Dassay’s older brother Bobby Dassey and step father Scott Tadych killed Teresa Halbach and were persuaded by police to frame Steven Avery. Since Dassey and Tadych lived on the Avery Auto property, where Teresa was last seen and where the majority of the investigation was held, the two had enough time to kill Halbach and move her Rav 4 to a spot in the car junkyard to be found. Dassey and Tadych were also the only two witnesses called that had stories that matched up, considering they were each other’s alibis.

While there doesn’t seem like there is a strong motive for these two to kill a woman they don’t even know, it is important to note that Tadych does have a history with violence as well as the fact he owned a .22 caliber rifle that he tried to sell days after the murder, as reported by one of Tadych’s co-workers. I believe another motive would be jealously. Steven, their neighbor, is receiving publicity as well as money for what happened to him and jealously caused Dassey and Tadych to kill Halbach and help police send Avery back to jail.

If you got to the end of “Making A Murderer” and you were still ready for more, don’t worry. Netflix announced that everyone’s favorite binge-watching site would release fifteen new original series this year.