What Happened to Michael O’Kelly – After Making a Murderer Update

Michael O'Kelly during a 2012 investigation

Most of Netflix’s docuseries Making a Murderer spends its time looking at Steven Avery’s trial for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Falsely imprisoned for 18 years, Avery was exonerated and filed a civil suit against the erroneous conviction. As that case progressed, a young woman named Teresa Halbach disappeared, and immediately, police suspected Steven Avery.

When a statement from Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey turned into a confession that he helped Steven Avery kill Halbach, Dassey’s public defender hired Michael O’Kelly to help him find out information about Brendan Dassey. Michael O’Kelly was a known expert on cellular technologies, being called in to help clarify technical points made by a defendant.

Michael O’Kelly was also known for taking his role as a cell phone expert further than just making statements about the technology in trials. In 2012, he was kicked out of a case for visiting the defendant, even after it had been found his testimony wouldn’t be needed.

So it’s easy to see how Michael O’Kelly, expert and unofficial investigator, might be helpful to helping Len Kachinsky, Brendan Dassey’s public defender, get a reliable statement from Brendan, without having to go through the normal channels. Since being brought up in Making a Murderer, a lot of people have been wondering who Michael O’Kelly is, and what he’s done since Dassey’s conviction.


Interviewing Brendan Dassey

In 2001, the Sacramento Daily Recorder ran an article about Michael O’Kelly. In short, the article explained how O’Kelly was one of “a dozen elite practioners” of a “truth detecting technique,” SCAN, which relied on exploiting linguistic deviations in statements. In the article, O’Kelly claims his technique is more dependable than a polygraph. An example of his technique is that if one were to say, “when I was a kid,” then that person was probably molested. Also, if you say the number 3, you’re probably lying.

Presumably, Michael O’Kelly continued offering his services as a human lie-detector to various defense firms, somehow ending up on the radar of Len Kachinsky, who hired him to help with his murder suspect, Brendan Dassey.

Brendan Dassey on trial for his role in Teresa Halbach's murder
Brendan Dassey on trial for his role in Teresa Halbach’s murder

Brendan had become implicated in the murder of Teresa Halbach when his young cousin Kayla Dassey claimed he had confessed to her. At the time, Brendan was 16. Later, under oath, Kayla said she had been lying about the confession.

After Kayla spoke to investigators about Brendan’s possible involvement in Teresa Halbach’s murder, Mark Wiegart and Tom Fassbender got a second statement from Brendan. Mark Wiegart was a detective with Calumet County, neighbor to Manitowoc County. Calumet had taken over the investigation to avoid any appearance of conflict that might arise because Steven Avery had a civil suit against them. Tom Fassbender was a special agent with the federal Department of Justice.

This witness interview, conducted on March 1, 2006, quickly turned into a confession. According to statements made to the two investigators, Brendan came home from school, helped rape and murder Teresa Halbach, and helped his uncle dispose of the corpse. It’s important to note that Brendan Dassey was in special education classes at the time, and was interviewed without the presence of his parents or any school officials.

 

Len Kachinsky, Brendan’s public defender, was aware of this confession when he was appointed. Before ever meeting with Brendan, Kachinsky held a press conference, where he stated:

“We have a 16-year-old who, while morally and legally responsible, was heavily influenced by someone that can only be described as something close to evil incarnate.”

Before every meeting with Dassey, Kachinsky made several statements to the press
Before every meeting with Dassey, Kachinsky made several statements to the press

This made it clear that Kachinsky’s approach to Brendan’s defense was to admit guilt. While on the surface it seemed as though this may be a smart move for Brendan – if he admitted guilt and testified against Steven Avery, he would see a reduced sentence for his own crimes, especially considering his mental handicaps.

However, the O’Kelly’s conduct called that into question. In order to get a more clear idea of what has happened, Len Kachinsky had Michael O’Kelly interview Brendan Dassey, to help clear up the inconsistencies in Brendan’s statement to investigators.

Immediately prior to interviewing Brendan Dassey, O’Kelly arranged a selection of photographs on a table. Photos of Teresa Halbach, a picture of her church, a blue ribbon like the one memorializing her outside that church, and more gruesome pictures, such as her burnt bones, recovered in Steven Avery’s firepit.

With this display set up, O’Kelly brought Brendan Dassey into a room, and showed him a form. This form is brought up in Making a Murderer, but the legal implications of Brendan filling it out are glossed over.

The form Michael O'Kelly gave Brendan Dassey
The form Michael O’Kelly gave Brendan Dassey

The form asked Brendan if he was sorry or not, for what he did. Notable is that both options end in the phrase, “what I did,” which can be construed as an admission of guilt. So if Brendan Dassey filled out either option on this form, it could be viewed as contributing to a narrative of confession.

What is most interesting is that O’Kelly’s form asks Brendan if he is sorry. Apologizing for an action is not only enough to demonstrate guilt, but culpability. Not only would Brendan be saying he did it, he would know it was wrong.

This completely eliminated any ability for Len Kachinsky to argue his clients mental handicaps were enough to warrant exculpating him of his crimes, and meant that the one strong piece of leverage the defense could have had was taken away, by themselves.

Michael O'Kelly interviewing Brendan Dassey
Michael O’Kelly interviewing Brendan Dassey

Later in the interrogation, Brendan was shown the results of his earlier polygraph test. While this test was officially inconclusive (page 31,)  O’Kelly told Brendan that it demonstrated he was lying when he claimed innocence. That is, O’Kelly lied and said Brendan was caught lying, despite there being no evidence that Brendan’s statement of innocence was false.

It could be seen then that Michael O’Kelly’s interrogation of Brendan Dassey and this form are the most clear evidence that, as Brendan’s currently (as of January 2016) pending appeal alleges, Len Kachinsky offered ineffective counsel.

Michael O’Kelly After Making a Murderer

With the help of O’Kelly, Brendan Dassey was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. Since that case, Michael O’Kelly has continued to act as an expert witness. A lot of the press around him has been due to his high fees for services which are rarely used in the actual trials for which they are rendered.

In 2010, O’Kelly was listed as one of the defense’s expert witnesses in the now infamous Casey Anthony trial, although he never gave testimony.
In 2011, Michael O’Kelly, billing himself as a “forensic cell phone data consult,” was paid $24,304 by the State of Illinois as a defense expert in a their case against Christopher Coleman, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife and two sons. O’Kelly’s testimony was not used.

In 2012, Michael O’Kelly, now using the nickname “Cell Tower Mike,” was paid $102,994 by the State of Texas as a defense expert in a case against Rickey Cummings, sentenced to death. O’Kelly was never even called to testify in this case, and the state was unable to recoup their expenses paid to O’Kelly. Initially, O’Kelly had been hired to examine cell phone records, but billed the county for 14 visits to the Cummings, actions which eventually got him removed from the trial and contributed to Cummings seeking retrial.

Michael O’Kelly Now in 2017

In March 2015, O’Kelly was a speaker at a conference held by the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Assocation. There, he presented on the topic of cellular forensics.

The most recent information available about Michael O’Kelly is his involvement in a murder trial in Michigan. There, he is charging what the Judge referred to as “one of the highest [fees]” ever paid for an expert by the prosecuting county.


  • samcarabetta

    If anyone who cares about Michael is reading this, know that his outrageous conduct in the Dassey case his legacy now. It is the only thing for which this world will really remember him.

    • SomeTruthPlease

      I hope that it also derails his MONEY TRAIN. One highly paid case after another and they almost ALWAYS exclude him from testimony. They might as well walk that cash to the courthouse bathroom and flush it.

  • John Cromonic

    Just watched these videos and I cannot believe the DOJ doesn’t have all of Law enforcement and the DA and Prosecutors of this case in prison. This is unbelievable that this happened in America.

    • Steve Roberts

      Not black

      • shirleytempleofdoom

        Good observation. Were these defendants black, the arresting police officers would have just shot them dead and there never would have been a trial.

        It is refreshing to see older white people, like you, recognizing this systemic failing in our justice system exists.

        • Baph Omet

          you know what else is refreshing? the fact that neither you, John, and Steve have ever studied law or read the complete case history. As for you shirley, I sure hope one day that you get shot by an african american cop just for the irony

          • big KRIT

            A complete reading of the case history, nor a degree in law, is required to see that there were incredible injustices done here.

            But hey, if you’re OK with coercing a mentally challenged kid into “confessing” to a crime he didn’t do, and sentencing him to life in prison, then that’s your decision. I doubt that’s something you’d put on your resume, however.

          • Baph Omet

            Once again…you do not have a law degree…you have not read the case history…and you are not a psychologist…you are simply an armchair detective. You simply saw what the filmmakers wanted you to see and took it as fact. You sir are a politician’s wet dream. Congratulations.

          • Tim

            If you need a law degree to have an opinion about this case, then I sure hope you have a lot more degrees, dummy.

          • etherspin

            there are many tens (probably a few hundred now) of thousands of people who have read far beyond whats covered in the documentary.
            e.g. did you know Michael O’Kelly tried to give Dassey the blue ribbon to keep , claiming it was Teresa’s and that in the same breath he told Dassey not to tell anyone what they had spoken about that day (especially his mother) – just to keep it between them and Kachinsky.
            Note that the dodgy form that tricks Dassey into both guilt and culpability was given to him in either a school classroom or a room made to look like one while Dassey sat at a school desk, O’Kelly over his shoulder like a helpful teacher and the form they cooked up looked like a multi-choice quiz but the first answer was a trick question where either way you answer you are saying you killed someone.
            there are plenty of people lacking X degree who have smarts. you realise that degrees were first administered in each subject by a person who didn’t have the degree themselves yeah ? 🙂

          • Casey Oliver

            Excuse you, sir. I have studied law, forensics and am currently reading the case file. And this is a farce of the worst kind. The entire state of wisconsin represented in this case botched it.

          • Baph Omet

            give examples then?? I mean..why would steven block his number twice when contacting Halbach the day of the murder? or how did they find his sweat on the hood? did you know steven admitted to having a hard time transitioning from jail to freedom? did you know he told Jodi that he believed that all women owed him something since one had costed him 18 years of his life?

          • Veronica Jean

            if i hear the words “sweat under the hood” one more time im going to scream! there is no DNA in sweat alone, and one of the officers involved confessed to not changing gloves before opening the hood latch! its sickening how rumor gets twisted to be taken as fact….and after hearing the words “sweat under the hood” i very highly doubt that you read any of the case files…if you did you would know that it could never be determined as sweat and could have been transferred by an unchanged glove…..

          • etherspin

            how do we know he said this to Jodi ? is this the Jodi that contends that when she was telling him on recorded phone calls that she loved him , missed him, wanted to be proposed to and wanted it done with rose petals she was actually in mental anguish and chowing down rat poison ? she is still up to dodgy behaviour, currently in trouble for going around buying up big using fake cheques.

          • shirleytempleofdoom

            The love of Jesus compels you! Again. And again! Thanks for the threat of bodily harm. It has been reported.

          • Baph Omet

            jesus gave up on you a long time ago hunny

          • shirleytempleofdoom

            Your continued attempts to contact me after threatening me with bodily harm will be reported. This contact attempt has been reported.

          • Baph Omet

            shirley I am still waiting to be contacted regarding these supposed threats…are you sure you are reporting me correctly? please advise…

          • JamesieK

            Your comments have been flagged. Let the moderators do the rest

          • mosquito killer

            isis will find u and tear u butt to limb, u POS!

          • Baph Omet

            your kids will die of rectal cancer

          • mosquito killer

            i am coming directly for u. i know where u are and know ur 85% dumb. i’m going to get u to sign a form confessing ur stupidity and taking full responsibility for teresea halbach’s murder.

          • Arthur Orville

            Baph, i dont agree with what any of them said either, but why the heck would u say something like that? That’s pretty…. petty, immature, hateful, ignorant, and just a down right stupid thing to say. I mean come on, what would make u wish that someone, whom uve never met, to get shot? Cant u people make your arguments without going all crazy & threatening people or insulting them any way you can?

          • Theresa Pugh

            Older white people, lol. Race baiting is alive and well in America. Private ? Must have something to hide..

  • Håkon Johansen

    If anyone who cares about Michael O’Kelly is reading this, know that his one of the most disgusted persons ever. Unbelievable what he did with Brendan Dassey.

    • Steve Roberts

      This country cares little about truth 🙁

    • Chris

      I agree Hakon!!!

    • https://www.twitter.com/Kathleenicorn Kathleenicorn

      Seriously, he is scum. Absolutely outrageous

  • Chris

    Why didn’t the defense for Brendan show Kachinskys investigator telling Brendan to draw those things?

    • Laurie Anne

      I think they did, didn’t they? It was in the documentary, and I was thinking they were showing the video in court.

  • Mary D

    Travesty committed by this ‘person’ – both of these ‘excuses for a lawyer and helper to the defense of Brandon’ should be sued for everything they have — because only then, will they have a care. In an interview I saw w/ Kachinsky he only seemed concerned about himself – no thought or remorse that he did not help this young person. Kachinsky should be disbarred! Okelly should never work again – tells a lot about those whom hire him, after what he did!

  • Carla Prasad Cotterill

    Michael O’Kelly is a strange man. When he started sobbing about the ribbon…just a very weird guy…asking Brendan if she mentioned God…the transitioning to talking about his BMW during the interview…his obsession with a picture of a ribbon by her church….creepy. Pretty much everyone involved in this case is a slimeball or a creep. What a circus.

    • Laurie Anne

      Word.

    • http://princessofpirates.wordpress.com Clairels

      The way he kept referring to the Avery family as “evil” and “incestuous” and how they had to “cut the tree down.” Just disturbing.

      • SomeTruthPlease

        He’s a narcissist. He peddles himself as an “expert”, but he lost a case for the defense..and he was hired BY the defense. What that means to me is that ….HE SUCKS. He’s also histrionic. He knew he was about to be exposed for the piece of sh#t that he is and those tears were his way of handling that. They were NOT tears for the blue ribbon and what it symbolized, but they were tears for his own reputation.

  • John

    Sub-human trash in disguise.

  • Adam Dolce

    I can see a career in acting should his persona, Cell Tower Mike, not work out.

    “The blue ribbons… my god, the blue ribbons!”

    • SomeTruthPlease

      It’s blue! The G-D-Ribbon is BLUE!

  • Tom

    I had the misfortune of crossing paths with Michael O’Kelly even before his involvement in Brendan Dassey defense. He was hired as a ‘PI’ in a civil case I was involved in (He was working for the other side). I wish I could go into more detail, but to protect the identity of others involved in the case, I must remain vague. He was a con man, posing as an expert on Polygraph and witness statement analysis. He bilked some people out of very large sums of money for a work product that actually seriously damaged their case. In talking to law enforcement officials and attorneys who had dealings with him on the case, they all categorized him as ‘dirty’, based on their dealings with him. In fact one police detective I spoke to, charaterized him as one of the sleaziest people she had ever encountered in her law enforcement career. She didn’t go into detail on what drove that conclusion, but it was clear to me she knew more than even I did about his shady tactics. I had long forgotten about this dirt bag until I was into episode 4 of ‘Making a Murderer’ when he appeared. I about tossed my cookies when he appeared on screen. If there is anything good that will come from the making of this documentary, perhaps one of the best is that this guy has finally been exposed to Millions of people for who he really is, and his long run of moving from one state to another … bilking defense teams and desperate people out of 10’s and 100’s of thousands of dollars before disappearing off into the shadows will finally come to an end.

    • Ariana

      How is he not behind bars?

      • M3D1T8R

        Well, he is white, for one thing.

  • Dan Holan

    evil swine …. should be hanged with the whole poelees department and corrupt filthy judges …

  • Dan Holan

    cell tower mike …. stinking oxygen thieve …. kill that f … somebody …pleeese

  • michael1960

    Based on what I’m reading in the comments, Cell Tower Mike is getting a very bad reception.

  • Chris

    I know where Mike O’Kelly is. Believe me, he has gotten worse…corruption is ingrained in his person. Criminal Defense attorney Ken Rosenfeld of Sacramento Ca. had the misfortune of dealing with him.

  • Choir Boy

    Michael O’Kelly BAR NONE the worst human being I have ever seen. Just a sick, UGLY, twisted, dirty, piece of GARBAGE!!!!!! Who had no business even being involved in this case. The guy is an expert on cell phone technology?….so he’s hired to coerce a statement out of a mentally handicapped CHILD?. NEVER IN MY LIFE HAVE I SEEN SUCH PURE REAL EVIL! THIS SATANTIC POS HAS BEEN EXPOSED FOR THE WORLD TO SEE! MANITOWOC WI IS NOW KNOWN AS THE ONION! THE MORE YOU PEEL BACK THE MORE IT STINKS! # LOWER THAN RAT EXCREMENT! #DIRTY ROTTEN LOW LIFE TEXAN# PURE EVIL!

  • Chris

    O’Kelly should be locked up. What he did to Dassey was so unethical..O’Kelly is a criminal.

  • David Johnson

    mike@celltowermike.com drop him an email and let him know what you think of him.

  • David Johnson

    Or give Mike a call: (800) 366-8543 and 312-852-6453

  • John malan

    This old **** micheal o kelly can’t get old enough soon enough and die. Both len and micheal should be in a grave together and live happily ever after. …probably both are having gay sex with the prosecutor. People make me sick

  • Libertarian

    If Michael O’Kelly even had a shred of a conscience he wouldn’t be able to live with himself for what he has done. Sadly, a psychopath of this caliber probably sleeps well every night.

  • donovan ogden

    Mike O’Kelly is truly a shameful person.

  • JusticeBComing

    The best news is that Michael O Kelly knows what he did, and has to live with consequences. The sad point is that he has helped to convict someone based on O Kelly’s own ineptitude. He is not a “cell phone” forensic expert. He comes off as something way less then professional. His comments about the Avery family during the trial are outrageous and should have been dismissed as his opinion and that only. Justice is awaiting his tactics and manner. My opinion is that Michael O Kelly should be afraid of what lies before himself.

  • Jules Varne

    Evil

  • Tim Melb

    This O’Kelly is an unprincipled sleaze-bag who along with the cretinous, crooked Kachinsky manipulated and set-up an extremely unintelligent youth. So much for US justice. May these scum bags rot in hall.

  • Karl

    Given Avery’s previous conviction, to see this scum-bag Kratz complaining about ‘honourable’ police officers being smeared by allegations of corruption is pathetic. Hope his cancer’s not trivial. Same goes for that crooked prick Lenk who planted the key and bloodstain. The citizens of this county must be really proud of their crooked police force and judiciary. Who would ever trust these criminals in charge again?

  • Janet Cabel

    Truth, justice and the American way? Not in Wisconsin. Especially when the police department, DA and Sheriff might be found liable in a lawsuit for their earlier corrupt actions. I’m always amazed how these supposed God-fearing, Christian men with authority can be such low-life liars and crooks.

  • Jackie Y

    and he didn’t testify in the Michigan either

  • Ariana

    How is this man not behind bars?

  • Astonished

    I am just now watching this and I am speechless. Michael O’Kelly you and all the police officers involved in this corruption will have to answer for this one day. On that day,there will be no manipulation, you will all stand before God. He knows all, you will not be able to hide.

  • Bobby Gans

    wish someone would bust a cap in this jerk’s ###. piece of something