Making A Murderer: Six Theories On What Really Happened To Teresa Halbach

Published January 27, 2016
Updated February 13, 2018
Making A Murderer Title Scene

Image Source: Netflix

Since the debut of Netflix’s docudrama Making A Murderer, the Internet has been abuzz with theories about the murder of Teresa Halbach that would support Steven Avery’s innocence. The release of case information not presented in the documentary, combined with what was revealed throughout the show, has become fodder for couch detectives everywhere. Below are the six sets of theories from Making A Murderer currently gaining traction:

Scott Tadych & Bobby Dassey

Scott Tadych

Image Source: Netflix

This theory alleges that Scott Tadych, step-father of the Dassey boys, and Bobby Dassey, nephew of Steven Avery, worked together to kidnap, rape, and murder Teresa Halbach as she was leaving the Avery property on October 31st.

By framing Steven Avery — their relative with a criminal past — theorists claim the pair would have had ample reason to think they’d get away with it. But questions emerged during the trial after it was discovered that they served as each others’ alibis and that there had been no formal investigation into either of their whereabouts on the night Halbach was murdered.

In court transcripts from Dassey’s cross-examination, Dassey and Tadych lay out the events of that evening as they recall them — events which were, at times, not in line with what they had originally told police.

As he recalled the series of events, Bobby Dassey remembered having a conversation on November 3rd with his friend Mike about Teresa’s disappearance. This was corroborated by the claim that they were together in order to tag and skin a deer they’d found on the side of the road.

Dassey claims Avery came into the garage and allegedly made a joke about the discovery of a body that turned out to be Teresa Halbach’s. Avery said, “want to help me get rid of a body?” According to Dassey, it was “clearly a joke” and they both laughed. Avery continued by implying that “people go missing all the time.” Dassey testified that the police never asked him about these jokes in the garage that night.

He then testified that on October 31st, he left for his hunting site at around 2:45 PM, at which time he no longer saw Teresa and Avery in the yard. Previously, he’d seen them milling about outside in the yard through his kitchen window. Being only mid-afternoon, it seemed a bit early to go out hunting deer (who are generally most active at dusk) but he maintained that he and his step-father would go early to set up, so as not to spook their quarry. When he left, he testified that he did not hear any screaming or cries for help from the Avery property.

However, the timeline established by Dassey was not congruent with placing Teresa on the Avery property at 3:30-3:40, which was established by a school bus driver who had driven by the property. The bus driver’s schedule did not deviate and thus, it was far more likely that her time was the correct one. Dassey departed on his hunting trip shortly thereafter.

Tadych was returning from a brief hunting trip himself. Neither had told the other of their hunting plans, but Tadych said that Dassey would have known he was hunting because he was wearing camo.

Tadych testified that when he saw Dassey on Route 147, they would have been traveling at about 55 miles per hour. If this was true, the speed would have made it relatively difficult to make out who was driving the vehicle, let alone what the driver was wearing.

That night around 11 PM, there was a bonfire on Avery’s property, reported by Bobby’s brother Brendan (who was coming home from trick or treating) and by Tadych, who was returning with Dassey’s mother from visiting Tadych’s mother in the hospital.

Later, the remains of Teresa Halbach’s camera and phone were found burnt in a barrel on Avery’s property. Throughout the trial, both Scott and Bobby were extremely hostile toward Avery and seemed overjoyed when he was brought to trial, saying that he’d “got what was coming to him.”

The German

Making A Murderer Theories

Image Source: Netflix

One of the more widely circulated theories involves an unnamed man known only as only “the German”.

Characterized as mentally unstable and prone to violence, he had visited the home of his estranged wife — just five miles from the Avery property — around the time of Teresa Halbach’s murder. The ex-wife of The German was originally interviewed back in 2009 by Brian McCorkle, and the initial theory published on McCorkle’s blog:

She found that on 31 October, 2005, he visited the Maribel area and had stopped at the rental before the lease began. He spoke of visiting an auto salvage yard. He commented that a woman wanted to take pictures of the rental property on 31 October while he was there, and he felt that the photographer was “stupid.”

While the original post on Reddit has since been deleted, the theorizing continues to plays out in the comments. The original poster of the thread eventually began to fear for her safety and deleted her account, but much of the original discussion, and suspicion, have continued in her absence.

Despite approaching the police about her concerns — particularly after she discovered women’s clothing in a closet that was not hers — her husband was not investigated in relation to the Avery case. The ex-wife moved away and apparently, The German was later deported.

Ryan Hillegas and Mike Halbach

Ryan Hillegas

Image Source: Netflix

One theory proposed by an Internet sleuth named Daniel Luke implicates Halbach’s ex-boyfriend. An ex-con himself, Luke reasons that he’s the ideal investigator for the case, since he thinks like a criminal.

“This is a story as old as time,” he says, “Rageful boyfriend,” — which he says with a hint of irony, since he is a rageful ex-boyfriend himself.

Ryan Hillegas was never questioned, despite having access to Halbach’s voicemails, knowledge of her whereabouts the day she disappeared, and no alibi. He had a peculiarly close relationship with the cops leading the case and was almost immediately appointed to lead search parties, granting him an unusual amount of access to Avery’s property in the initial stages of the investigation. He may also have had access to the key found in Avery’s bedroom, which looked like a spare or valet key.

Interviews with Hillegas and Halbach’s brother tipped the Internet off: strange body language seemed to imply the two men were “in cahoots” with one another:

Co-workers of Hillegas even came forward to say said he had “stalker” tendencies. Despite efforts to have either Hillegas or Halbach cited as possible suspects, on Steven Avery’s own lengthy list of potentials, their names never appear.

Mike Halbach, Teresa’s brother, had declined working with filmmakers, so his side of events was not recorded in Making A Murderer. He was, however, the official spokesperson for the Halbach family, so some footage of him exists. Many have said that his discomfort may well be attributed to his grief, and being forced into the spotlight when he was reluctant to do so.

The evidence against them was stacked further when Sgt. Andrew Colburn, Hillegas and Mike Haibach found Teresa Halbach’s RAV4 on Avery’s property. It was called in, rather than radioed, by Sergeant Colburn as he was on foot and not in his cruiser at the time — basically, meaning that he was there illegally.

The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department

Steve Avery Mugshot

Perhaps the most pervasive theory is that Avery was framed for the murder of Teresa Halbach by members of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Deptartment, who had previously incarcerated Avery for a crime for which he was later exonerated.

His attorneys asserted that the Sherrif’s Department planted evidence to secure the conviction, rather than to frame him, but the tone of the show suggests his conviction was part of a larger law enforcement conspiracy.

In any case, the amount of wrongful and unlawful behavior by the Manitowoc County Sherrif’s Department in the Avery case is undeniable, ranging from the coercive interrogation of Brendan Dassey to possible evidence tampering.

But some elements of the case — important ones at that — were left out of the documentary. For example, the mishandling of the blood evidence? That hole in the top of the vial is put there by lab techs — it’s how the blood gets into the tube. The evidence seal had been broken with Avery’s lawyers present during a wrongful conviction suit.

The timing on the burning of the body was also explained, when a Department of Justice Arson Bureau specialist testified that with the tires and the van seat used as accelerants in a fire, a body could burn within a few hours.

As for the key that was found on the second search of the trailer? The previous entries the documentary claimed were “searches” were: a 10-minute sweep to look for any sign of Teresa alive; an entry to retrieve the guns seen on the initial sweep; an entry to get the serial number from Steven’s computer for use in a warrant; and the crime lab luminol testing of the residence. None of them were intended to be thorough searches.

Teresa Halbach

Teresa Halbach Video

Making A Murderer Teresa Halbach

Image Source: We Are Green Bay

The idea that the death was a result of suicide seems an unlikely one in the face of all the evidence, not least of which was Halbach’s reluctance to go to the Avery property that day.

Though it sometimes get lost in the story, Steven Avery and Teresa had met before: she’d previously been out to the Avery salvage yard to photograph other cars for AutoTrader magazine. For what would be her last trip out, Avery had requested “That same girl who was here last time” — meaning Teresa.

In fact, Teresa had actually requested not to return to the Avery property: During a previous visit, he’d opened the front door to greet her in nothing but a towel, which she (unsurprisingly) found creepy. When he called to request her, he used a fake name.

There isn’t much support of the suicide theory aside from a video of Teresa taken several years before her disappearance: the theory emerged in response to clips from MAM that show a video diary she made in her early twenties.

Some also pointed out that her original status was “missing endangered” — which could have implied that she was mentally ill and thought to possibly be a threat to her own safety. However, the broader definition of “missing endangered” includes “minors (under 18) and elderly persons (over 65). An adult between those ages will be listed as Endangered Missing if they have a medical condition or are missing under circumstances that indicate they may be in danger.”

Serial Killer Edward Wayne Edwards

Wayne Edwards

Could one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted killers have murdered Teresa Halbach and framed Avery for the crime? Some people are asserting it’s possible, especially since Edward Wayne Edwards has framed others for his murders in the past.

A serial killer in his own right, Edwards was also a suspect in the Zodiac, Jon Benet Ramsey, and Black Dahlia murders.

FBI Cold Case Specialist John Cameron thinks that he could well be Teresa’s killer, because some details of her murder are consistent with Edwards’ previous crimes: As a murderer, Edwards was known to remain relatively close to the scene of the crime, lingering around for the aftermath (investigations, funerals) of those he had murdered and subsequently framed.

In Edwards’ case, he almost exclusively killed for the purpose of setting someone up for the murder — the victim was often inconsequential. It’s also true that many of his past victims were murdered on Halloween night, the same as Teresa.

Perhaps most damningly, he had killed in Wisconsin before, and at the time of Teresa’s murder, he lived about an hour away from the Avery’s. He died in prison in 2011, so if he was in fact responsible for the crime, it’s likely we will never know the truth. It’s believed that he was caught on tape in Episode 6 of the show.

Abby Norman
Abby Norman is a writer based in New England, currently writing a memoir for Nation Books. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Independent, Cosmopolitan, Medium, Seventeen, Romper, Bustle, and Quartz.
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