In Netflix’s Making a Murderer, documentary makers focus on the cases of Steven Avery and to a lesser degree, Brendan Dassey, and the judicial system in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Throughout the course of the series, a long series of people are introduced and their involvement in the trial brought into question. Dassey’s defense attorney is accused of working against him, prosecutor Ken Kratz might have ignored a conflict of interest, and even Avery’s own family has drawn suspicion.
One of the more interesting people involved in the case is Andrew Colborn. A sergeant with the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office, Colborn has been connected to Steven Avery’s legal proceedings going as far back as 1994. The rest of this article will assume you’ve seen Making a Murderer, or are otherwise familiar with the case.
A Timeline of Andrew Colborn’s Relation to Avery & Dassey
In 1986, Steven Avery was convicted for a crime he was exonerated from in 2003. Eventually, Gregory Allen would be demonstrated as the rapist who assaulted Penny Beernsten, after new DNA testing methods were invented. But in 1995, Sergeant Colborn, working as a corrections officer for the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office, received a call from a detective from nearby Brown County. The detective said he had someone in custody who was claiming to have committed an assault, that someone in Manitowoc was in jail for. Also in 1995, Gregory Allen was arrested in Brown County, lending credence to the idea that this informant was Gregory Allen, the actual assailant whose crime Steven Avery was sentenced for.
Manitowoc County, in 1995, had a population of around 80,000, which would, at exaggerated estimates, mean around around 85 rapes and assaults had been reported that year. With around 14-18% of rapes being prosecuted, and only around 5% being convicted, that means there would have been, going back a decade, less than 50 possible cases this detective’s contact was giving information about. This information is included to impart some idea as to the feasibility of acting on this phone call. Colborn, a corrections officer, would have only had to have reported the phone call to detectives, who would have had relatively few cases to look at to corroborate whatever information they might acquire from Brown County’s person.
And yet this information goes unreported for another decade. Only in 2003, the day after Steven Avery was exonerated and released from prison, did Andrew Colborn file a report about this phone call. On September 12, 2003, Colborn notifies his superior, Lieutenant James Lenk. Lenk, in turn, asks Sheriff Tom Kocourek what to do. According to testimony by a deputy in a 2005 deposition, Colborn was told “we already have the right guy and he should not concern himself.”
Only then is it passed back down the chain to Andrew Colborn to write a report about the incident. This report is then taken by Sheriff Peterson and placed in a safe in Lenk’s office.
Coming after Steven Avery has already been released, this report does nothing to immediately benefit Avery. However, in 2004, Avery’s lawyers file a suit seeking a $36 million payment from Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction.
On October 13, 2005, a year into the proceedings, Andrew Colborn is deposed. He explains the chain of events outlined above, about taking the call and filing the report. Sheriff Peterson is also in court that day, to verify the latter parts of Colborn’s testimony.
The next event to occur, from Colborn’s perspective, was on November 3, 2005. The day Teresa Halbach is reported missing by her parents, Colborn placed a call to his dispatcher. In that call, he asks the dispatchers to run license plate SWH582, which is reported to belong to a missing person, Teresa. Colborn then asked if the plates for a ’99 Toyota, which was affirmed. When asked in Avery’s trial why he had placed this call, Colborn said he was not looking at Halbach’s license plates at the time.
In the investigation into Teresa Halbach’s disappearance, Manitowoc County handed control to neighboring Calumet County, to “avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest,” due to the then-ongoing civil suit Steven Avery had filed. However, due to limited resources, Calumet sheriffs relied on assistance from Manitowoc. While in press interviews at the time, both counties outlined the Manitowoc involvement as minimal.
With the trial brought on by charges against Steven Avery, that minimal involvement was shown to extend to participation in every part of the investigation. Colborn interviewed Avery the same day she was reported missing – the same day he called in her license plate.
After finding Halbach’s vehicle on the Avery property, Calumet County sheriffs repeatedly searched the Avery property. On November 8, Sergeant William Tyson went with Colborn and his superior, James Lenk. While conducting a search of Avery’s trailer, Lenk finds the key for Halbach’s vehicle, the one Colborn inexplicably called in on November 3. Even though Colborn and Lenk, with the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Office, are searching for evidence on the property, the Manitowoc Sheriff at that time, Pagel, reiterates their minimal involvement in a press conference later that day.
With the key and other physical evidence, authorities arrested Steven Avery on a charge of felonious possession of a firearm, with charges related to Halbach’s murder following.
Suspicions Around Andrew Colborn
Making a Murderer brought some attention to actions of Andrew Colborn in relation to Steven Avery, but the deputy has brought on a great deal of scrutiny from online forums.
The first question people want answered is why Colborn didn’t file a proper report when he was first told by a Brown County detective that Manitowoc had someone in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. More importantly, if he did not file a report in 1995, why did he file a report at all? The most likely answer is that, with Steven Avery’s release, Colborn was scared he could be found culpable for the false imprisonment, and wanted to mitigate the potential damages.
Making a Murderer focuses quite a bit on Colborn calling in the license plate number. Relevant parts of the testimony are shown, where he states he isn’t looking at the license plate at the time of the call. However, no reason for why he would make the call was established.
The most likely explanation, according to reddit, might be that he was looking at several license plate numbers in a notepad, and couldn’t recall why he had written the number. A more complicated theory is that because of the litigation Avery had filed against them, the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Office was conducting surveillance of the family and property. Colborn, familiar with the Avery’s because of that litigation, might have been conducting surveillance. He may have recorded the license plate of Teresa’s car on October 31, and noted that he did not see it leave. Then on November 3, Colborn would have entered the Avery property without a warrant, searching for the vehicle. Finding a vehicle without plates, he would get the model and year (’99 RAV4) with the VIN, and call to confirm the unplated vehicle is Halbach’s. Unable to progress further because of his illegal search, Colborn would then wait for the car to be found during a legitimate investigation.
Andrew Colborn, during Avery’s trial, does not offer these, nor any other reason for why he would have known about the license plate or had a reason to call it in.
With Manitowoc County claiming to have a minimal role into the Halbach investigation, a lot of people are questioning why Colborn and Lenk were searching Avery’s trailer, with relatively little supervision. The official answer is relatively straight-forward: Calumet County supposedly did not have the resources to conduct a proper search without the aid of Manitowoc deputies.
In his testimony, Andrew Colborn specifies that when he and Lenk find the key, they know it is something special. The Avery’s owned an auto scrapyard, so it is likely there would have been a lot of keys around the property. Left out of the documentary, was that the matching lanyard was found in the vehicle, when it was inventoried; Teresa’s sister testified to giving her the lanyard. The key was also the valet key, which may indicate it was not her primary key.
Andrew Colborn Now in 2018 – Recent Updates
Since the release of Making a Murderer, there has been a lot of buzz about it online. On December 29, 2015, a Twitter account supposedly belonging to Anonymous announced #OpAveryDassey. The focus of #OpAveryDassey was to disclose the phone records of Andrew Colborn and his superior, Lietenant Lenk. However, that account has now changed its name, and is claiming to have handed the endeavor off to another online collective, GhostSec. However, GhostSec, known for cyberattacks against ISIS, denied involvement. As of January 1, it appears that the threat of releasing those phone records was a publicity stunt to draw followers to the original Twitter account.
Andrew Colborn is still currently employed by the Manitowoc County Sherrif’s Office, now a detective and Lieutenant.
haha, saying what we’re all thinking
wisconsin pigs stinking free Steven Avery
Sorry to burst your bubble, but It’s entirely understandable why Colborn called in Halbach’s license plate on November 3, two days before her car was found on Avery’s property.
On November 3, Halbach’s mother contacted police about Halbach’s disappearance, and they immediately began looking for her. One obvious tack is to look for her car. That requires a description, and, ideally, the license plate numbers. Presumably Halbach’s mother (or sibling, or friend) supplied that information to the authorities, and Colborn called it in to verify it before sending out an “all points bulletin.”
Standard operating procedure, and that’s exactly what Colborn said at trial. Frankly, having watched this documentary three times, I think Avery’s lawyers look less sharp each time (I’m a lawyer too, by the way). I didn’t find it at all surprising that Colborn would know Halbach’s license plate 2 days before her car was found.
Colborn never offered an official explanation. Other than when questioned after hearing his phone call he claimed it was the dispatcher who said, “’99 Toyota” first. Which was immediately refuted with the call recording.
That was the moment I knew something was fishy, is Colburn’s reaction to the questioning …. he was answering a question from his right but his eyes were looking to the left at the prosecution, he was sending eye message that was saying,
“I am not going to get out of this one”.
She wasnt reported missing until the 5th. That is why the defence wanted to know where he got the license plate and knew the make/model.
Why were helicopters flying over the property on the 4th? Why were people hanging flyers in town on the 4th? How was Steven Avery interviewed by reporters on evening of the 3rd (aired on the 4th) saying he had let police search his trailer earlier? Why was all this going on on the 3rd and 4th if Teresa wasn’t reported missing until the 5th?
Sorry got my dated mixed up. The thing that is weird is if he was given the make/model of the car, the license plate and the owner – why was he calling dispatch?
Incorrect. Teresa was reported missing on the 3rd by her mom to Calumet County. Her vehicle was found on the 5th by Pam Strum, Teresa’s Cousin, however, Colburn called in the RAV4 the 3rd rather late in the night to dispatch suggesting that he was double checking a license plate that he was reading, which should not have been the case as the license plate was found in the trunk of another vehicle on the Salvage yard.
I am not hear to throw out judgment, I am just cleaning up the misunderstanding of the time line. I assure you, I know the time line well.
read below, i already said i got the dates mixed up
Colborn had information that should have released avery 8 years before his eventual release. This Colborn is the lowest peice of trash and belongs in prison.
You might want to watch it a 4th. She was reported missing on the 5th. Great job there Counselor (yeah right).
She was reported missing on November 3rd at 5:00 p.m. If she hadn’t been reported missing until the 5th why were there helicopters flying over the property and people hanging missing flyers in town on the 4th? How did Avery give a news interview taped on the night of the 3rd saying he had allowed police into his trailer to search for Teresa earlier? Why would the police ask to search Avery’s property on the 3rd if Teresa hadn’t been reported missing yet?
If colborn was given the make/model of the car,
the license plate and the owner – why was he calling dispatch?
Eric, remind me to never hire you as my lawyer then because if you are this absent of critical thought concerning all things Avery than you’re lawyering ability is extremely limited!!! Not saying your opinions are wrong but if you only need to hear the testimony of Colburn to form your opinion, and are so willing to dismiss all other possibilities without further investigation or review than your not that good period. One thing is for sure this case will not die or go away until all facts and evidence are completely vetted and either discredited or affirmed, including more sensitive DNA analysis which has never been done. Enter Kathleen Zellner super lawyer and full of integrity who never defends a guilty client! All great lawyers will be agreeing there is much more to be done to get to the bottom of this fiasco of an investigation and subsequent unfair trial. Sorry you do not fall into that caliber of lawyer and have folded so easy without question.
If you don’t believe Colborn (frankly, I do believe him), you’re better off focusing on an entirely different discrepancy.
In Avery’s videotaped interrogation on November 9, he told the interrogator that Halfbach had given him a copy of “Auto Trader” just before she left (he never did say, by the way, that she also gave him a blank “Bill of Sale,” which leaves unexplained how a blank “Bill of Sale” ended up in his trailer.) He also paid her at that time, he said ($40, as I recall). The interrogator asked him specifically whether she was outside the truck or inside the truck when she handed him the “Auto Trader.” He replied: “In the truck.”
But just six days earlier – November 3, the day Haibach was reported missing – Avery told the police he hadn’t talked to Haibach that day. He said he’d seen her taking pictures of his sister’s van but that he hadn’t talked to her.
Someone wasn’t telling the truth (unless, of course, the reported handing of “Auto Trader” to Avery occurred without any verbal exchange, which I have a hard time believing — how about you?). You might think that “someone” was the police; I happen to think it was Avery.
Another interesting tidbit that wasn’t explored in the documentary. The prosecution introduced into evidence a note found on Avery’s computer table. It had Halbach’s phone number written on it. Hardly proof that he murdered her, of course, though evidence. But that’s not the interesting tidbit about that note. It also said “Back up to patio” right below Halbach’s phone number (and nothing else was on the note). If the reader is interested enough to check Google Earth (I was), you’ll see that Avery’s “patio” is just steps from his front door, making it very easy, if one is so inclined, to move a victim’s body from his trailer to the back end of her vehicle. I don’t recall anyone testifying as to where her car was parked while she was taking pictures of the van. (I plan to check Bobby Dassey’s testimony on that.) If I find out (though I may never find out) that her car was parked next to Avery’s patio, backed in, I’ll find that more than a little interesting.
Are you kidding me? OF COURSE HE HAS HER NUMBER HE USED HER MULTIPLE TIMES HE SAID THAT. #2. HES SELLING THE VAN, SO YES HE HAS THE BILL OF SALE. #3 Can you explain WHY her blood would be in the back of the rav4? You said that he could have put her in it, no duh, but WHY WOULD HE if he burned her in his back yard? #4 Can you explain why there was no blood found ANYWHERE IN HIS HOME if he stabbed and shot her. #5 EVEN IF HE DID COMMIT MURDER Lenk and Colborn violated SO MANY practices they should both be locked up.
Regarding November 3, why didn’t Colborn explain why he called in the license plate # when questioned on the stand? You know why. . . . because he had told so many lies that even he couldn’t keep his story straight and he was left speechless, unable to offer an explanation. Period.
So many more interesting tidbits than that Eric if the police would have investigated all possibilities of all people on the property that day. They did no extensive looking into other suspects some members of the Avery clan who actually alibi for each other! Interestingly those two were seen running around the property hunting from a golf cart, the cadaver dogs got a positive hit on that golf cart and it was never tested, looked at any further so to say these guys were tunnel vision on Steven is an understatement.
Was Colborn ever disciplined for not following up on the call?? 8 yrs of mans life was lost due to that mistake. That’s gross negligence and he should have been brought up on criminal charges or at the very least his employment should’ve been terminated. Yet it appears he was somehow promoted through the ranks after that.
The testimony in court was that he did report the call on the same day he received it. He reported it to the investigators on the case. The guy was a detention deputy – his job was feeding and babysitting inmates not ‘investigating’ crimes or cases or supervising the investigators to see what they did with the information he gave them. Colborn reached out again when Avery was cleared to report the call he’d received. He wrote a statement about it and he testified about it in depositions (he was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit – he was a cooperative witness whose testimony benefited Avery). He could easily have claimed he never got the call or didn’t remember if he was inclined to. Nothing in this guys behavior in regards to the lawsuit seems to fit him trying to frame Avery because of the lawsuit.
You make it sound like Colburn was doing Avery a favor by “reaching out again” after Avery was cleared. What a crock. He was saving his own skin. Funny how he didn’t “reach out” during the previous 8 yrs, isn’t it? Sorry but I’m not buying what you’re selling regarding Colburn being a stand up guy that is incapable of framing Avery. There’s too much out there that shows that he was completely opposite of that.
Colborn belongs in prison, supermax. This guy is the lowest kind of scum in Wisconsin. Hopefully Karma will get the guy.
its unbelievable about how many people Believe what they see on TV. This documentary is clearly one-sided to get as many of your reactions as possible. If anyone wants the whole story check the book out on amazon. This is getting ridiculous please educate yourselves.
Im so sick of people like you who keep telling american citizens to “educate themselves” because of their own ignorance.
Why cant you embrace the fact that ” we the people” want and expect liberty and justice for all? Whether SA is guilty or not, some major lines were crossed here. I think YOU need to educate YOURSELF! And while your at it, throw in a little humanity!!
My personal opinion of Colborn is that he’s just wimpy puppet with a badge. He’s a “yes-man”. I don’t think he’s evil in nature like Lenk et all. I think he’s a pansy who did and does whatever Lenk tells him to. He has no balls. Lenk is a crooked cop. That’s blatantly obvious to everyone. But by being Lenk’s puppet and doing (and not doing) whatever Lenk tells him to do, this makes him a crook himself.
Dexter is coming for you
Nah, he’s too busy chopping trees.
unbeliefble i am in shock how the american system works america ya,ll should free the 2 single handly cause the law count,s for everyone even the law it,s self or make a citizens arrest and start a process against those responsible cause this is a disgrace there got to be a way to free the innocent there got,s to be please people of the u.s.a. (ps arrest scott tadych and bobby dassy ) DO SOMETHING !!!!!!!!!!!! GREETINGS FROM THE NETHERLANDS
This article leaves out Sgt. Colburn called into dispatch on his cell phone…. not on the sheriff’s radio system which all others would have heard. These Sheriff guys are crooked as all can be.
The Sheriff at the time was also the President of the only other salvage yard in the county, besides Avery’s.
Lets hope Donald. Trump takes some action in this case. People like Jim Lenk and Andy Colborn should be behind bare. Colborn has been promoted too. Nice. America wake up!!!!