A week before jury selection for the trial to prosecute the murder of Teresa Halbach, Dean Strang, representing the defendant Steven Avery, asked the judge to dismiss some of the charges against Avery. In his request, Strang responded to the prosecutor’s argument that dismissing certain charges would leave them “swimming upstream.”
“[T]he state is supposed to start every criminal case ‘swimming upstream’. And the strong current against which the state is supposed to be swimming is the presumption of innocence[…]
Where do we go to get our presumption of innocence back from a public who believes—and has heard time and again—that he’s an alleged rapist, even before murder.”
With these words, Dean Strang cuts to the heart of the issue presented in Netflix’s Making a Murderer: we will never know the reality of Avery’s role in the murder of Teresa Halbach. But our justice system is not, and is not designed to be, omniscient. The role of any trial is not to ascertain the truth of a matter. A trial is to negate the presumption of innocence of the defendant, not more.
Strang draws our attention to the trial to follow, a trial which is by all appearances being held to demonstrate that in Manitowoc County, and if you’re an Avery, you will be convicted if you can’t prove your innocence. Regardless of any suspicions of malfeasance, ignorance, or failures of the jury, the premise of the prosecution’s allegations prerequisite a presumption of guilt.
Looking at the available information with a presumption of innocence, it is possible to create a vastly different narrative implicating other suspects in Teresa Halbach’s murder.
Examining Statements & Testimony
To be clear, everything that follows is conjecture, and much of the theory comes from Avery’s own appeal, frun June 26, 2009. However, as that appeal clarifies, Avery’s defense was never able to argue these theories because of the decisions Judge Patrick Willis made in the preliminary hearing.
By every record available, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey had verifiable alibis for their whereabouts during the time Halbach was allegedly murdered. So did everyone else questioned by investigators, except Scott Tadych and Bobby Dassey. Their alibis relied on each other, and were never proven credible, so should not be taken as such. This article will focus on the possibility of Scott Tadych’s guilt, as that seems to be the most likely, however this is as much speculation as any accusation must be.
Bobby Dassey is Brendan Dassey’s brother, and Barb Dassey’s son. Barb was, in 2003, in a relationship with Scott Tadych, and they were living together. At some point after the trial, they became married. But during the relative time period, Scott was Bobby’s mom’s boyfriend.
The Dassey/Tadych family lived on the same 40 acre property as Steven Avery, in a trailer less than 100 yards away from Avery’s own. It was Scott and Barb’s van that was being sold, by Steven, on Scott’s request.
On October 31, Steven Avery called AutoTrader to request “the photographer who had been out to the property previously,” Teresa Halbach. Avery left his sister’s name and number instead of his own, possibly in response to known statements from Halbach that due to harassment from Steven, she wouldn’t work with him again.
Looking at Teresa’s phone records shows that she was called multiple times in a row by an unknown number earlier in the day, but most importantly confirms AutoTrader speaking with her at 2:27, where she told her employer that she was on her way to the Avery property, presumably from around 10 minutes away, at another clients.
During the trial, Bobby Dassey, Scott’s soon-to-be stepson, testified that he saw Halbach arrive between 2:30 and 2:45, before taking a shower. Bobby then said he left the house between 2:45 and 3:00, to go bow-hunting. He claimed to see Halbach’s SUV, but not Teresa. Bobby’s claim of leaving to go hunting was verified by the testimony of Scott Tadych, who claimed he drove past Bobby while he was also out hunting. However, this testimony contradicted Scott’s statements at the time of the investigation, where he said he’d gone home instead of hunting.
Brendan Dassey’s schoolbus driver testified to seeing Halbach taking pictures of Scott’s van when she dropped Brendan and his brother Blaine off at 3:30. A truck driver, Jon Leurquin, testified that he saw Teresa Halbach’s SUV leaving the Avery property between approximately 3:30 and 4:00 while he was filling his vehicle at a nearby propane repository.
That night, supposedly after raping and murdering Teresa Halbach, scrubbing multiple locations clean of evidence, and burning Teresa’s body, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey had a bonfire to celebrate Halloween. Scott Tadych, who showed up late to the bonfire, testified that the flames were around 10 feet tall, in contradiction with his earlier claim that the flames at been much lower when first interviewed.
Three days later, on November 3, 2005, Teresa Halbach was reported missing. On November 5, Teresa Halbach’s car was found in the Avery scrapyard, and on November 8, cremains were found in Steven Avery’s firepit. Cremains were also found in a burn barrel belonging to the Dassey/Tadych household. On November 9, Steven Avery was arrested.
On November 29, Scott Tadych was interviewed by lead investigators Mark Wiegert and Andrew Fassbender, where he said he was trying to sell one of Bobby Dassey’s .22 rifles to a coworker. Teresa Halbach would later be shown to have been shot in the head.
On March 30, 2006, while Steven Avery and his stepson were in jail, charged with Teresa’s murder, Scott Tadych’s coworkers were interviewed (see page 47 of the 2010 appeal, continued here.) They described him as a “chronic liar who blows up at people, ‘screams a lot,’ and is a psycho.” To support the claim, Avery’s defense listed Tadych’s multiple arrests, several violent.
Evidence & Motive
Continuing the approach that Avery is presumed innocent, much of the evidence which works against him could just as easily be argued to work against Scott Tadych. Ignoring the suspicious evidence (Steven’s blood in the car, the single bullet found without blood, so on,) we’re left with Halbach’s vehicle on the Avery property, and her cremains being found in the neighboring quarry, in Steven Avery’s yard, and in Barb and Scott’s burn barrel.
Unfortunately, because of how the investigation was handled, there is very limited information about evidence which could support any alternate theory beside “Steven Avery did it,” and the refutation of the evidence pointing to Avery was done admirably, albeit unsuccessfully, by his defense.
However, the circumstances about the crime should be enough to tie Scott and Bobby to it as suspects. They had the means, and as much motive as Avery. While Avery was a suspect due to a sexual assault he never committed, Scott Tadych was actually a violent criminal, which could serve as motive.
When Scott was charged with battery, disorderly conduct, and criminal damage to property in 1997, Mark Rohrer was his defense attorney. During Steven Avery’s trial, this same Rohrer was the Manitowoc County District Attorney – the man who handed the case off to Calumet County to avoid “the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Not only that, but the presiding judge over that trial was Patrick Willis – the same man who would preside over Avery’s trial. The next year, Scott plead no contest to trespassing and disorderly conduct, again with the trial presided over by Judge Willis.
When Scott and his brother William were named as defendants in a personal injury suit, William’s lawyer was Jerome Fox. The same Jerome Fox who, as judge, would preside over the trial against Brendan Dassey, Scott’s stepson, for Teresa’s murder.
As demonstrated in The Third Branch, a publication for Wisconsin judges, Jerome Fox and Mark Rohrer worked for the same firm during at least the period where Scott was a client of Rohrer’s. This means Scott Tadych was a former client of the same firm that used to employ the judge presiding over his stepson’s trial.
Mark Rohrer, Patrick Willis, and Jerome Fox all had knowledge of Scott Tadych’s violent behavior, which itself is not odd, as Manitowoc County is not that populous. What is odd is that despite this knowledge, Scott Tadych was never once seen as a suspect.
Who Killed Teresa Halbach
Put plainly, we will never know who killed Teresa Halbach. The first hours of a murder are critical for identifying a suspect, and after years of time and miles of confusing paperwork, there is almost no chance of proving who did it beyond reasonable doubt.
Which brings back the heart of the issue: the presumption of innocence. While nothing argued above is proof of anyone’s guilt, it is enough to cast reasonable doubt on the allegations that Steven Avery is guilty.