Guilty or not guilty?
If you havent seen Netflixs incredible true-life crime drama Making a Murderer then stop what youre doing immediately. Not being part of the conversation is criminal (no pun intended). After the success of the podcast Serial, weve become a little bit too obsessed with flexing our investigative muscles, and we definitely need all of them to work out whats going on in the case of Steven Avery. Although hes currently in prison for murder, no one is really sure if hes done it
If youre hooked on the Avery case, heres our round-up of the craziest fan theories on the web; from satanic sex cults to hidden weed fields. And, of course, expect spoilers aplenty
For more on great crime shows check out Crime Scene magazine.
1. Teresa's ex-boyfriend and brother killed her
Theory: Ryan Hillegas, Teresa Halbachs ex-boyfriend, and her brother, Mike Halbach, may have been involved in her murder because they cant explain why messages on her phone were deleted.
What this means: At the trial of Steven Avery, Mike and Ryan admitted to guessing the code to Teresas mobile voicemail. However, they argued that they hadnt deleted any messages, even though the defence proved some messages must have been deleted. Could these messages have incriminated them in the crime? Other online sleuths believe Mike and Ryan could have collaborated with the police to plant Teresas car in the Avery scrap yard. As far as Teresas brother is concerned, many found his attitude in the documentary strange, especially his comments about the grieving process before his sister had even been declared deceased, and his single-minded determination to see Steven go down despite problems with the evidence.
2. The Avery estate is valuable
Theory: The Avery family salvage yard sits on a massive 40-acre plot, which could be crucial in local mining activities. If Steven had won his original lawsuit (for the 18-years he spent in prison as an innocent man) he would be unlikely to leave the land, and may even buy more, putting corrupt interests at risk.
What this means: Reddit users have pointed to Doug Hagg, a man mentioned only once in the documentary, who is said to be the District Attorneys mentor, but also turns out to be the head of a real estate transfers and registry office in Wisconsin. If portions of the Avery estate are important for local mining interests (remember that gravel pit where some of Teresas bones were found?) this land could be supremely valuable. Perhaps valuable enough to send an innocent man to prison for a crime he didnt commit? Unlike other theories, theres not much evidence to back this claim up, but it is certainly interesting to think the crime could go higher than first thought.
3. Drugs uncovered
Theory: In a similar way to Theory #2, speculation that Teresa stumbled upon a sophisticated drug ring points to corruption and collusion among officials in Manitowoc County. Heres how the theory goes; Teresa spotted something odd and decided to use her camera to step away from photographing cars and do some investigative journalism of her own. In the process she found a marijuana field and paid the ultimate price.
What this means: This theory is one of the more out-there ideas, but some argue its not too far off base. Firstly, although it isnt dwelled upon in the documentary, Teresa had told friends and family someone had been threatening her. Her colleague even witnessed her cancelling a call that riled her. Perhaps she was being threatened by a member of the Avery family dealing drugs, or it could have been someone else entirely. As her camera was destroyed in Steven Averys fire pit, the police could never look at her last few images.
4. Avery's brothers killed Teresa
Theory: Steve Avery believes his brothers, Charles and Earl, may have had something to do with Teresas murder and framed him for the crime. Back in 2009 the two were outed as possible suspects, especially considering their shady histories; Charles was repeatedly accused of sexual harassment while Earl was charged with sexually abusing his daughters in 1995.
What this means: On first glance it may just seem like Steven is trying to frame his dysfunctional family members, but there could be some truth to the tale. Firstly, on November 9 2005, investigators came to take a DNA sample from Earl who hid in an upstairs bedroom underneath a pile of clothing. Plus, cadaver dogs signalled to a golf cart used on the property, which Earl may have used on the day of Teresas murder to go shooting rabbits. Plus, both eagerly assisted the prosecution interesting.
5. Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych killed her
Theory: Brendan Dasseys (Stevens 16-year-old nephew who was also given a life sentence for his role in killing Teresa Halbach) older brother Bobby and Scott Tadych (Averys brother-in-law) could have killed Teresa, especially considering their accounts dont match those of witnesses and they only have each other as alibis.
What this means: Bobby and Scott did feature in the documentary and both threw suspicion onto Steven Avery. However, Bobbys account of where he was on the night of Teresas disappearance doesnt tie in with the school bus driver, who had a much keener reason to know the time on her route. Similarly, Bobby and Scott only have each other as alibis, testifying that they both saw each other drive off to go hunting.
Bobby Dassey also said that Steven made a joke about getting rid of a dead body on November 3, something that had been attributed to his friend Mike in the official evidence on November 10 this confusion almost caused the case to collapse and was a startling moment in the documentary itself. Plus, Tadych first told police that flames outside Averys house were 3ft tall, but in court he said 10ft. And there was also mention of him trying to sell one of the Dassey boys a .22 calibre rifle the same kind that could have killed Teresa Halbach.
6. A suspicious local killed Teresa
Theory: No one at the trial killed Teresa, in fact it was a completely different person who began acting suspiciously in a neighbouring county.
What this means: One of the things the documentary clearly shows is how strong the focus was on Steven Avery and his family from the get-go the idea of an unrelated killer who knew to frame Avery (who was a massive news figure thanks to his 18-year exoneration) never seemed to cross anyones mind.
Apparently, a woman in a neighbouring county noticed her husband nicknamed 'The German' by this post was acting weird the week Teresa was murdered. She even claims to have found fresh bones on her property, a bloody hammer and womans clothes in the closet. The woman says she wasnt taken seriously by the police, even though someone came to pick up evidence that could have led elsewhere. And if this isnt weird enough, the lady even suggested she confronted her husband about the crime and he said "no one would believe her". The fact that no one ever chased this up is scary, right?
7. A satanic sex cult gone wrong
Theory: Another too bizarre to be true theory is the one about a satanic sex cult, which ties in with the rape Avery was falsely sent to prison for in the 1980s. A man who claims to be a resident of Mantiowoc County has posted three videos on YouTube saying that the attack on Penny Beernsten was connected to a sex club involving prominent businessmen, cops and school employees who needed to keep their affairs secret.
What this means: Okay, so nothing this man says has been confirmed, but he alleges that someone showed him naked pictures of key officials who were members of the sex club and was asked to join. Some have even said the club could have links to Satan because Teresa was killed on Halloween. For those who believe Steven Avery is innocent, the fact that he had no motive for killing Teresa (and the fact that there's evidence to show she went there to photograph vehicles) proves something else must have been going on. Plus, as revealed in the documentary, Calumet County district attorney Ken Kratz was later found to be sexually harassing women and had to check into rehab. Weird, right?
8. Corrupt officials framed Steve
Theory: Its safe to say that Making a Murderer does not paint the Mantiowoc County Police Department in a good light. They are either corrupt, inaccurate or just incompetent... not a great choice. A strong theory that emerged from the case is that Sgt Colborn and Lt Lenk framed Steven because they disliked him, distrusted him and were worried about the repercussions of a lawsuit in which he was claiming $36 million.
What this means: Police corruption is a tough story to sell in the court of law, which is why Averys defence team struggled. However, evidence presented on the show proves that Colburn called in to dispatch asking them to run a number plate the car was Teresa Halbachs and Colbourn named the make and model as if he was looking at it. However, the car wasn't found until later in the Avery scrap yard. Then what about the key found by Lenk (who wasn't even supposed to be there!) in Averys bedroom? Why did it only contain Averys DNA? And why was there a tiny hole in the top of Averys blood sample in the evidence lock-up? It is all these unanswered questions that make this theory so compelling, even if theres no evidence to prove it.
9. Steve Avery really DID do it
Theory: Steven Avery, despite the dodgy evidence and protestations of innocence, did kill Teresa Halbach. Believers of this theory still argue, however, that he should have been found innocent because of the amount of reasonable doubt in the case.
What this means: This is perhaps the most fascinating of all the theories because it says two things; one, Steven Avery is guilty, and two, but not in the way the prosecution claim meaning he should have been found innocent. Once youve wrapped your head around that, here are the details
Steven Avery was described by Teresa Halbach as "creepy" and what the documentary didn't show is that Steven called Teresa multiple times using a call blocking function so she wouldn't know it was him. Theres also rumour that Steven told his prison inmate of his intention to build a torture chamber for women and his threats (in writing) against the mother of his children. Could Avery have been stalking Halbach? Although evidence is sketchy, prosecutor Kratz claims Averys DNA, not blood, was found under the hood of Teresas car, proving he must have touched the car. What do you think?
10. The filmmakers are to blame
Theory: No, we're not claiming the Making a Murderer filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos murdered Teresa Halbach, but some argue that their whole documentary is just an elaborate ruse to highlight the issues with the American justice system. They've been accused of purposefully missing out key evidence, such as Averys phonecalls to Halbach, to further their own agenda , and as a result, theyve made Steven Avery and the Avery family look far more innocent than they are.
What this means: Did we see a true representation of the Avery case? Is all this theorising and questioning kind of pointless? Have we just been swindled for some Netflix airtime and a whole heap of cash? Maybe, but the documentary makers have had some big fish to fry, especially when prosecutor Ken Kratz tried to shut them down during the trial. Turns out, the duo were subpoenaed and told to hand over all their recordings because Kratz believed them to be investigating for the defence yup, that was never mentioned either. The motion was quashed and the filmmakers carried on, but could this run-in have led to an unfair bias in the eventual TV show? You decide.