Why You Can’t Take ‘Making of a Murderer’ at its Word

I live in Oshkosh, WI, about an hour away from Manitowoc where the murder of Teresa Halbach occurred. When I started to watch “Making of a Murderer,” I remembered back to when I was ten years old, and the trial was everywhere on the news.

The overall consensus at the time was a surety that Avery was guilty. And I remember feeling vaguely ill when my father told me that Teresa Halbach was a distant relative. I never had the chance to meet her, but the idea that something so gruesome could happen to someone related to me is haunting. I am not going to pretend that I have an unbiased view of this case or this documentary. But I do know that the documentary itself is not unbiased either. It has been very carefully crafted to tell only one side of the story: that of Stephen Avery. And in doing this, it silences the voice of Teresa Halbach.

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Teresa Halbach. Photo via the Appleton Post Crescent.
Teresa Halbach. Photo via the Appleton Post Crescent.

“Making of a Murderer,” treats Stephen Avery as a victim, turning Teresa Halbach’s horrific murder into a mere plot device used to frame Avery. It bothers me that they are so convinced Avery is innocent, yet offer no alternative suspect behind Teresa’s death. She is forgotten among the sensational aspect of Avery’s trials. The filmmakers decided to pick and choose which evidence to show, telling only part of the larger story.

The documentary left out a lot of evidence. More of Avery’s DNA was found on Teresa’s car, precisely under the latch of her car’s hood. The DNA was from sweat, which no lab had a sample of from prior cases. Not to mention, this DNA’s presence was undoubtedly genuine, who would even think to plant it there? The bullet also has more evidence tied to it. Ballistics testing showed that the bullet was definitively fired from Avery’s gun. Aside from the physical evidence, there is more to suggest Stephen Avery as a suspect.

We know that Avery was the last person to see Teresa alive before she disappeared. What the documentary didn’t tell you is that Teresa had a number of run-ins with Avery that scared her. Kratz claims that Avery once answered the door during one of Teresa’s visits wearing only a towel. Teresa complained about this to her boss, stating that she was uncomfortable going back out to Avery’s property.

And those mysterious phone calls she kept getting from blocked numbers? Avery called her several times, particularly on the day she went missing, using the *67 feature to block his identity. Teresa’s belongings were also found right outside Avery’s door in a burned barrel.The documentary also glossed over the gruesome details of the state of Teresa’s body, which was found in Avery’s fire pit.

A tooth was found in the firepit, which was used along with dental records to identify her remains. There was also a rivet from the jeans she wore the day of her disappearance. Everything else that was left of her was only bones. Fire needs to be incredibly hot to burn a body like this, and Teresa’s remains were intertwined with steel tire belts, indicating that tires were used as an accelerant  to make the fire burn hotter. As for questions of police misconduct during searches, one deputy maintains that she witnessed no impropriety, and notes that Avery’s home was immaculately clean when she saw it.

Avery’s own character also makes him a very good suspect for the murder. For one thing, the incident with the cat was severely downplayed in the documentary. Instead of a harmless incident, it was legitimate animal cruelty. The animal was first soaked in oil or gasoline before it was thrown into a fire to be burned alive.

Avery also has a history of violence and hatred towards women. While in prison, he allegedly spoke with cell mates of “his intent to rape, torture, and kill young women when he was released,” along with showing them a diagram of a torture chamber he planned to build.

He also has a history of abuse. His now ex-fiancé, with whom he is shown to have a loving relationship with on camera, now maintains that Avery threatened her into supporting him, and that she believes he murdered Teresa. She said, “He told me once—excuse my language—‘all (expletive for women) owe him’ because of the one that sent him to prison the first time. We all owed him—and he could do whatever he wanted.”

All of this evidence makes me highly suspicious of Avery. Some of it I have even heard from my own family, who remain convinced that Avery should remain in jail. And as a young woman around Teresa’s age, I would be afraid of this man even if he hadn’t been convicted of the crime. One place the documentary failed is to find an alternate theory of the crime.

According to their argument, I can only see the police having murdered Teresa, which makes no sense. If in the new season of “Making of a Murderer,” which was just announced, new evidence that exonerates Avery or condemns someone else is revealed, I might be more inclined to believe in Avery’s innocence. I don’t care about relentlessly keeping Stephen Avery in jail. I care about justice for Teresa Halbach, a kind 26-year-old woman who was dehumanized and brutally murdered.

Remember the name Teresa Halbach, don’t glorify her killer.

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