In Movies & TV Commentary

"Making a Murderer" tells only part of the Steven Avery story. (PHOTO: Netflix/Making a Murderer)

14 pieces of troubling evidence "Making a Murderer" left out or glossed over

Photo Gallery Gallery: Real locations from "Making a Murderer"

There are key pieces of evidence that Netflix's riveting docuseries "Making a Murderer" didn't tell you about or skipped over. Of course, those things make Steven Avery look worse.

It's been fascinating watching the national interest in the Steven Avery case blow up. The wildly heated social media commentary seems to be breaking down into warring narratives. I've lost count how many people have insisted Avery (and his nephew Brendan Dassey) are guilty because they watched news media coverage about the cases years ago (lots of us were guilty of that). I've also lost count of how many people now insist outright that they're innocent because they watched a Netflix documentary. Perhaps one of the shining lessons here is to scrutinize everything.

I fall somewhere in between now. Before I watched the 10-part docuseries, I thought they were guilty (admittedly also from scattered news accounts and then DA Ken Kratz's emotional and graphic press conference in which he outlined the Dassey "confession" details he never ended up using against Avery). At the time, the planting argument seemed ridiculous. The docuseries – built on a mountain of video and audio – altered my perceptions because it revealed new information I wasn't aware of before.

I don't know if Avery did or didn't do it. I still think he might have. There's serious evidence pointing in his direction. However, I also think the documentary raises many troubling questions that remain unanswered, including about the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department's continuing involvement in the case.

I also think the new video and audio of the cognitively slow teenager Dassey was shocking, and he probably deserves a new trial. That doesn't mean he didn't do it. It means everyone deserves fair representation, and his earlier team seemed far from it. Furthermore, his confession was contradicted in ways by forensic evidence (why wasn't Halbach's blood found in Avery's trailer or garage?), and there was no forensic evidence in the form of his DNA, blood or fingerprints tying Dassey himself to the crime.

All of that being said, I was curious what evidence the documentary – which was clearly told from a defense advocacy perspective – left out or glossed over. Everyone should be interested in the same thing here: the pursuit of truth and justice for Teresa Halbach. Perhaps if we piece together more of the puzzle, as was done in court and in the documentary in different ways, we will find that the picture gets clearer. I wish a news station would rerun the trial from gavel-to-gavel, frankly. That would be even better yet.

Then-DA Ken Kratz has been fighting back hard in People Magazine this week claiming the documentary omitted key evidence. I didn't want to take his word for any of it, though (especially due to his later problems). Instead, I went back to news accounts and some court transcripts from the time. Those are not infallible, either, of course. But they are interesting. It's too bad the Netflix documentarians left things out or quickly passed over things. They would have created an even richer tapestry if they hadn't.

Earlier, I told you about the four alternative suspects the defense tried unsuccessfully to raise during the trial. Turns out there were a bunch of unsavory characters on the property that day or who had access to it.

Here are 14 other things that you also may not have heard yet:

1. Leg irons and handcuffs were found in Avery's residence and in Dassey's

The criminal complaint contended that authorities "located items of restraints within Steven Avery's residence including hand cuffs and leg irons."

According to a lengthy Milwaukee Magazine story from May 1, 2006, Avery admitted they were his, stating of the handcuffs and leg irons, "I bought them. I wanted to try out something different with Jodi (his girlfriend)."

Of course, it's also very curious that Halbach's DNA didn't turn up on these handcuffs and leg irons if they were used to restrain her.

Interestingly, according to the testimony of the Department of Justice investigator in Dassey's trial, that's not the only place such things were found. He testified that leg irons and handcuffs were found in both Avery's and also Dassey's mother's residence, although on cross examination he stated that Brendan Dassey's prints and DNA weren't on them. In otherwords, it was not proven at all that these belonged to Dassey. But they were there, according to court transcripts.

2. Avery and his girlfriend had a less than rosy relationship at times

The Netflix documentary paints the romance of Jodi and Steven as a positive one. It may have been in some ways, but there were also some problems.

According to the Milwaukee magazine story, "In September 2004, sheriff deputies arrested Avery for violating a disorderly conduct ordinance after an altercation with (Jodi) Stachowski. The court ordered him to stay away from the woman for 72 hours and pay a fine of $243."

3. The car key unearthed in Avery's residence had DNA from his sweat on it, the prosecutor says

The documentary makes tangential reference about perspiration but not in a way that it's focused on or made particularly memorable. Rather, the documentary seemed to focus more on just saying his DNA was on the Halbach car key and focusing on a theory that law enforcement planted Avery's blood in Halbach's car (which they deny).

From the Milwaukee magazine article, "A state analyst determined blood from the car and dried perspiration on the car key matched Steven Avery's DNA." Kratz also detailed this contention in his opening statement in the Dassey trial, according to the transcript, saying the crime lab analyst recovered a full DNA profile of Avery from the sweat on this key. (update: the defense claims it was not proven that this was sweat or what is called "touch DNA").

The key, of course, is the key piece of evidence the defense claims law enforcement planted. There are very fishy things about the key. It was found by a Manitowoc law enforcement official days after others had already searched Avery's residence repeatedly and had not found it – and Manitowoc had already publicly handed over the case because of Avery's pending wrongful conviction lawsuit against that agency. This same officer was deposed shortly before the murder in Avery's civil suit for his previous wrongful conviction. Very weird.

However, it's harder to envision officers getting their hands on Avery's sweat or skin cells for what is called touch DNA. When it came to evidence planting allegations, the documentary talked more about a vial of his blood maintained from the previous wrongful conviction case (also curious because it had a hole poked in the top of it, of course). The DNA evidence was more complex.

4. Dassey's mother said Dassey helped Avery clean his garage floor

The Milwaukee Magazine article further stated that, "On February 27, Dassey's mother spoke with police investigators. Barbara Janda, 41, mentioned that her son had stained his pants while helping his uncle clean his garage floor around Halloween." Also, according to the Department of Justice investigator's testimony in Dassey's trial, Dassey's pants had bleach stains that he said were from helping clean the garage, transcripts say.

5. Pornography was recovered in Avery's residence

The Wisconsin State Journal reported on Nov. 12, 2005 that officers recovered "pornographic material, according to the search warrants."

6. The previous animal cruelty case involved a bonfire

This animal abuse incident was mentioned in the documentary but not in great detail. According to an Associated Press story from Nov. 20, 2005, "Steven was convicted in 1981 of burglary. He got five years probation, which was revoked in 1982 after he was charged with animal cruelty for pouring gasoline on a cat and throwing it into a bonfire."

7. Avery had drawn a torture chamber while in prison and was violent to other women

According to an Appleton Post Crescent article from March 9, 2006, "While he was in prison, Steven Avery planned the torture and killing of a young woman, new documents released Wednesday indicate. The allegations are included in 22 pages of court documents accompanying additional charges filed by Calumet County Dist. Atty. Ken Kratz. ... Kratz also included in Wednesday's filings statements from prisoners who served time with Avery at Green Bay Correctional Institution. They said Avery talked about and showed them diagrams of a torture chamber he planned to build when he was released."

Furthermore, reported the newspaper, "The filings also include statements from a woman, now 41, who said she was raped by Avery, who told her 'if she yelled or screamed there was going to be trouble.' There also is an affidavit from a girl who said she was raped by Avery. 'The victim's mother indicated that the victim does not want to speak about the sexual assault between her and Steven Avery because Steven Avery told her if she 'told anyone about their activities together he would kill her family,'" the filing said. According to the newspaper article, "The affidavit said Avery admitted to his fiancee that he had sexually assaulted the girl."

8. Avery once opened his door "just wearing a towel" when Halbach went to his property previously

There's evidence for this one, but it was never allowed in trial. This was one of Kratz' claims to People Magazine. According to People Magazine, "He cites Halbach's Oct. 10, 2005 visit to the property owned by Avery's family for a photo shoot for AutoTrader magazine: According to Kratz, Avery allegedly opened his door 'just wearing a towel. She was creeped out [by him]. ... She [went to her employer and] said she would not go back because she was scared of him.'"

According to an Associated Press story from Feb. 14, 2007, the judge "would not allow Dawn Pliszka, an Auto Trader receptionist at the time, to testify about one of Halbach's previous encounters with Avery," said the story, continuing:

"She had stated to me that he had come out in a towel," Pliszka said while the jury was outside of the courtroom. "I just said, 'Really?' and then she said, 'Yeah,' and laughed and said kinda 'Ew.'"

The AP article said the judge would not allow the testimony to be heard by the jury "because the date wasn't clear and few details were known about the alleged encounter."

9. Avery called Auto Trader to specifically request Halbach the day she died

This is also contained in the same AP story. It said that the same woman, Pliszka, testified – this time before the jury – that Avery called her on Oct. 31, 2005 "to request the photographer who had been out to the property previously."

Angela Schuster, magazine operations supervisor, further testified that Halbach went to the Avery compound six times from June to Halloween to take pictures and also said, "She talked to Halbach by phone around 11 a.m. that day to tell her of the appointment at the Avery property," according to the AP.

10. Avery called Halbach's cell phone three times, twice using the Star-67 feature to hide his identity

According to a newspaper article in the River Falls Journalubazcdrwzaaustdzbbed from Feb. 28, 2007, Luring Cellular company workers Bobbi Dohrwardt and Laura Schadrie testified that "Avery's cell phone made three calls to Halbach's cell, and he twice used the Star-67 feature that hid his identity." These calls came in about 2:30 p.m.

According to an Associated Press article from Feb. 28, 2007, "The third call was placed about two hours later." It "lasted 13 seconds," and the phone company worker "couldn't tell if it was answered or went into voice mail."

11. Avery gave a false name when he called Auto Trader

From the same AP story, "Prosecutors are trying to convince a jury that Avery lured Halbach to the family salvage yard by booking an appointment with the magazine, using the name of his sister Barb Janda, to take a picture of a red minivan that Janda wanted to sell."

Of course, this could be explained by the fact that it was his sister's car that Halbach was to photograph.

12. The burnt bone fragments were mixed with steel tire belts

According to the criminal complaint, "Officers also located remnants of steel belts of tires that appear to have been utilized as fire accelerants."

A Nov. 15, 2005 Wisconsin State Journal article reported that, "Investigators also said in the court documents that they found steel belts of about six tires that were used as fire accelerants. They also found a number of 5-gallon buckets that appeared to have been used to distribute burned remains." Kratz told People Magazine the bone fragments "were 'intertwined' with the steel belts."

13. Avery's blood was found in six places in the Halbach vehicle, and DNA from his sweat was found on a hood latch, the prosecutor says

I found this in Kratz' opening statement in the Dassey trial transcript. He told the jury that the Avery blood was found on the ignition of the vehicle, on a CD case and on seats. He also said that Avery had a cut on his finger. And he stated that the state crime lab analyst had found DNA from Avery's sweat on the hood latch of the Halbach vehicle. He also stated that Dassey had said in his confession that Avery opened the car's hood.

14. Avery's rifle matched the bullet with the Halbach DNA on it

This is also in the opening statement. It says that Dassey said the bullet in the garage came from a specific gun of Avery's that hung on Avery's wall and that forensic testing matched the bullet with the Halbach DNA to this specific gun. This bullet was found months later by a Manitowoc law enforcement officer after others missed it during repeated searches.


lond3 | Jan. 7, 2016 at 5:16 p.m. (report)

Why is the fact pornography was found in his house in any way relevant. I bet Ken "The Prize" Kratz has porn taped to the inside of his eyelids.

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elck | Jan. 7, 2016 at 9:13 a.m. (report)

I too just just watched all ten segments of the Netflix documentary of MAKING A MURDERER and it was a unique documentary that was done mostly in real time as the film makers stayed there for years to capture Steven's release. I have to assume they were not prepared for what was to unfold. It disturbed me enough to watch it again the next day in full as I was so troubled by how the county handled both cases. Obviously, the fist one where he did eighteen years for a rape he didn't commit and had twenty-two witnesses that placed him NOT anywhere near where the crime was committed and how county officials put in writing how they not only didn't think it was Steven Avery but the Allen man, the man whom they put under surveillance because his crimes were escalating that they believed a crime to be imminent. Also the phone call that Andrew Colburn took from the neighboring county that they had someone in custody ,whom had just committed a brutal rape on the beach and claimed he had done a previous one and someone else was doing the time for it. Nothing was done about this. Mr. Avery had never attacked a women though he ran his cousin off the road but the Allen man, was under surveillance except for the one day that this crime took place. Looking at all the mishaps, the public announcement that the County would bow out of the investigation against Mr. Avery as he was currently suing them for thirty-six million dollars for the conviction and the enormous time spent in prison and this was a huge conflict of interest. The cover up started the day Mr. Avery was released. Then, as the full weight of possible jail sentences for the corruption by the County and it's agents plus, the insurance companies saying they wouldn't pay out on any damages awarded Mr. Avery if the County acted unlawful in Mr. Avery's conviction. I believe this was enormous weight and motive for the second conviction on orders from the DA and the Sheriff on down. I don't know who killed Teresa, but they never investigated her roommate, the male friend of the ex-boyfriend which is standard procedure to look at those closest to the victim Her roommate didn't even report her missing it was her mother whom was getting her voice mail that was filled. It was disturbing to find that her brother and ex-boyfriend were able to get into her phone voicemail and according to two Verizon Techs, said that her phone had to have had some of her messages erased after she was at the Avery's and went missing. I couldn't help thinking that maybe something happened with the roommate, something bad like a fight and she accidentally died and where Steven Avery's case was on the news almost nightly about his wrongful conviction and the suing of the county, the obvious public disdain the sheriff had for Steven, he went so far as to announce on the news saying "he believed Steven still guilty of the rape he was acquitted for by DNA" and the passing of the Avery Law by the Governor; that the room mate and the ex-boyfriend were not going to go to prison for the rest of their lives for what ever happened (again my personal opinion as the judge didn't allow the defense to name anyone other then Brendon as a possible killer. And, as another writer wrote, "Netflix could have been afraid of some type of defamation law suite of their own and therefore didn't investigate these young men"). But,as I was saying, they weren't going to prison and right there on the news was the perfect person to pin her death on. Another bothersome oddity was Brendon's own brother who was showering before he went hunting and happened to notice Teresa taking pictures of his mother's van in front of Steven's house, which later the correct time was established by the school bus driver. The State didn't want the correct time shown as it didn't fit their theory. And, Brendon's brother Blain, said he passed Mr. Tydek on Rte 147 and that he could verify the exact time, also be each others only alibis as oddly, they were both going hunting and no one else can account for them after that for hours. Brendon always maintained his brother went trick or treating. So many things bother me about this notorious arrest; like the blood and the EDTA test the FBI suddenly came up with and that test has been proven to be so useless, it hasn't been used since the OJ case. The times that officers didn't sign in to the roped off areas such as where the car was found, but he signed out later that night. He said he couldn't remember what time he arrived, whether it was even daylight or dark? Never mind that the small trailer was searched three times by the other county, the one in charge and the FBI and they found nothing, then the key is found under a slipper by the County that isn't supposed to even be involved in the investigation. Months later the bullet is found by the same cop, a bullet that came from a 22 caliber weapon that Mr.Tydek is asked on the stand if his co-worker tried to sell the boys a twenty-two that day and he Denys it. Everything here is wrong and I can't even begin to express how I feel about how they handled Brendon's interrogation. I don't even think he knew they were cops at first. The poor kid doesn't even know what the word "inconsistent" means. The first lawyer clearly is working to help the State out. His investigator was just horrendous to him and he was maintaining his innocence for the longest time. This kid deserves a new trial weather he had anything to do with it or not. Steven deserves a new trial when the sheriff goes on TV and says it would have been easier to kill him than to go through a trial. I drove it in my children's heads since they were young enough to stay home alone (we lived next to Schenectedy, NY - google the police corruption in the 1990's), that if a cop comes to the door and even just asks to use our phone, do not allow them into our houe, get the portable and allow them to use it on the porch. I also put our Lawyers card in each of their wallets and told them never to speak to a cop no matter what. That they can legally lie to you and say your friend is spilling the beans on you so you'd better off confessing. I told them "No matter what happened NEVER SPEAK TO THE COPS WITHOUT OUR ATTORNEY PRESENT." Now they are grown. My oldest is starting Law School and she is the one who had me watch this. I always told her to be a criminal attorney and we'd pay for Law School but if she becomes a prosecutor she'd have to pay us back. Our rights as citizens is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and that burden is put on the State! I think if someone is found innocent then the State should pay for the legal fees and expert opinion fees. Brendon will be released in his seventies. We are all losing out rights. This could be anyone in any town, USA>

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edonyoung | Jan. 4, 2016 at 8:43 p.m. (report)

I find this laundry list of prosecution points unconvincing to convict Avery beyond a reasonable doubt for the following reasons: 1) 5 points are character traits implying he could commit such an heinous murder (owning leg irons, some problems with with his girlfriend, pornography in the house, previous animal cruelty involved a bonfire, Avery drew a toture chamber while in prison). This is not hard evidence and most are unpersuasive. Avery was not a model citizen, but there was no evidence presented that he is a brutal killer or rapist. 2) 5 points are circumstantial, not necessarily allowed in the trial, and we do not have the benefit of knowing how the defense dealt with them. These are Brendan helped Avery clean the garage floor, Avery opened a door to Hallback with just a towel on, Avery specifically requested Hallback to come, Avery gave a false name to Auto Trader, Avery used *69 to hide his identity in 2 calls to Hallback). 3) 1 point (The burnt bone fragments were mixed with steel tire belts) has no particular connection to Avery, but maybe, somehow to the unidentified killer. 4) The remaining 3 points are evidence found by investigators (including the thoroughly discredited Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department) who seemed to find evidence whenever they needed it and often weeks afterward. As far as DNA, it was on items that made the prosecutor's case, but not on obvious places (no Hallback DNA on the keys). 5) Brendan's multiple confessions were completely forced and manipulated, not to mention totally unethical. Maybe 10 years ago it was not as well known how often false confession are extracted, but it is today. However, in the public relations war, it was very helpful in convicting Avery. 6) The prosecutor had shifting scenarios of how the murder was committed. First it was in the bedroom, then it was in the garage. 7) There is no story that adds up that Avery committed the murdered. Three examples...First, It would be impossible to clean up such a ghastly dismemberment, but nothing clear cut was found. Second, Avery would not have put a few branches and discarded construction wood on Hallback's car to hide it. Rather he would have used the car crushing machine in the yard. Third, Avery had an industrial incinerator and would not have made a bonfire to dispose of the body. 8) The investigators and the DA hardly investigated other suspects. With the known information, it cannot be proved that Avery did not commit the murder. However, Avery cannot be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt, since there is so much doubt, and this is the standard of the law.

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ZekeJustice | Jan. 3, 2016 at 9:51 a.m. (report)

In all honesty, there isn't one piece of evidence in this entire case that's more troubling then the rest. With the known and documented actions of the police it's difficult to believe that any of the evidence brought forward or even the evidence not mentioned isn't in some shape or form fabricated or possibly even made up. The police and prosecution also proved time and time again that they would go to great and often times unethical lengths to prove Stevens guilt, not uncover the truth. Let's face it, it's clear from the beginning of Stevens first conviction that the Manitowoc police dept is corrupt beyond a reasonable doubt and that they were in fact facing a $36 million law suit and being exposed at state and federal levels based on that corruption. They had motive, they had a history and they had the law on their side.

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