Teen details woman's horrific last hours
Teen details woman's horrific last hours
Boy, 16, charged with helping uncle rape and kill photographer
Friday, March 3, 2006; Posted: 3:17 p.m. EST (20:17 GMT)
Brendan Dassey, 16, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he helped his uncle kill Teresa Halbach.
MANITOWOC, Wisconsin (AP) -- A 16-year-old boy detailed the final horrific hours of a young photographer, telling investigators he and his uncle raped and killed her when she came to a salvage lot last Halloween on a photo assignment, a criminal complaint says.
Brendan Dassey pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of being party to homicide, mutilation of a corpse and sexual assault of Teresa Halbach.
Dassey's attorney told the court that the teen had been threatened by his uncle, 43-year-old Steven Avery, who is also accused in the woman's Halloween murder.
"He essentially has been victimized by Mr. Avery as well," Ralph Sczygelski said.
Avery was charged in November with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and possession of firearms by a felon in Halbach's death.
He had been released from prison in 2003 after serving 18 years for rape before being exonerated by DNA evidence.
Dassey said Halbach, 25, was shackled naked to a bed, begging for help as she was stabbed and her throat slit, according to the complaint.
The two then hauled Halbach's body to a garage, shot her, and burned her corpse in a pit, piling on tires, brush and debris to fuel the blaze, the complaint says.
The murder charge carries a mandatory life prison term. A prosecutor planned to seek additional charges against Avery, who denies knowledge of the death.
"I intend to hold each of these defendants accountable for the rape, torture and murder of Teresa Halbach," special prosecutor Ken Kratz said at a news conference.
"There is a substantial amount of physical evidence that now makes sense, fits a lot of pieces together," he added.
Kratz said Avery called Auto Trader Magazine, gave a fake name and asked for one of its freelancers -- Halbach -- to come out and photograph a minivan for sale. She had been there several times before for similar appointments.
Dassey lives in a house near his uncle's trailer. According to the complaint, he got involved in the killing only because he went to Avery's trailer to deliver some mail after getting home from school.
According to the complaint, Dassey said when he arrived at his uncle's trailer to give him a letter, his uncle encouraged him to help sexually assault Halbach, the complaint said.
Afterward, Dassey said he and Avery left the bedroom and watched television before Avery went back and stabbed Halbach in the stomach and told Dassey to slit her throat, the complaint said.
After burning the body, the two used gasoline, paint thinner and bleach to clean blood from the floor of Avery's garage, the teen told investigators. Authorities said pants stained with bleach were recovered from the teen's home Wednesday.
You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.
-Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)
MANITOWOC - By the Lake (way)
Earlier on Monday, the body of a white male was found by the pier near the carferry station. The body was wedged in the large rocks in Lake Michigan and the pier's edge.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene by the Coroner's office.
Marine contractors were working in the area and came to assist with removing the large rocks with a barge and a crane after attempts made by fire department divers required more heavy equipment.
Manitowoc County authorities say the body cannot be identified at this time and will require forensic procedures such as dental records and other means to identify the victim.
An autopsy will be scheduled for this week.
Trial opens for exonerated rapist accused of slaying young photographer
By Bo Rosser
CHILTON, Wis. — Advanced DNA testing was used to free Steven Avery after he spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit; now the same technology threatens to put him in prison for the rest of his life.
Avery, 44, is accused of luring Teresa Halbach, a young photographer working for Auto Trader Magazine, to his family's auto salvage yard, where he allegedly killed her and mutilated her remains on Halloween 2005.
Bone fragments and tissue found in a burn barrel outside Avery's mobile home matched Halbach's DNA profile, according to police.
If convicted of murder, Avery faces life in prison.
The irony of Avery's situation has drawn nationwide attention and brought a throng of media outlets to Chilton, Wisconsin. In this town of approximately 4,000, Avery became a notable figure after becoming one of the first subjects of the Wisconsin Innocence Project to walk free.
Over the next 11 days, police found Halbach's charred remains in a burn barrel along with her cellphone situated a stone's throw from Avery's trailer. Inside his home, investigators located Halbach's car key covered with the defendant's blood. Her crumpled license plates turned up in an aging station wagon.
When the forensic testing was completed, investigators matched Avery and Halbach's blood to that found inside her SUV. Other trace amounts of Halbach's DNA were found on a bullet embedded in the floor of Avery's garage, according to Kratz.
Defense attorney Dean Strang does not dispute the evidence — the bullet with Halbach's DNA, the blood found in her car, or the key smeared with Avery's blood. Instead, Strang concludes that these were planted by police.
A plot engineered by law enforcement may seem like a desperate argument, but Strang offered a motive. Two officers — Sgt. Andrew Colborn and Lt. James Lenk — were forced to give depositions in a $36 million lawsuit Avery filed against Manitowoc County, where he was wrongly convicted.
"All of those turning emotions, all of that within the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department floods out. You can call it tunnel vision, you can call it investigative bias, but this investigation is about Steven Avery and not much else," Strang said in his opening statement.
Infuriated by the embarrassment of the lawsuit and unjust conviction, they went after Avery, according to Strang.
"This wasn't an effort to frame an innocent man. It was an intense desire to conclude that he was the guilty man," Strang told jurors.
The defense attorney claims an unprotected vial of Avery's blood, which was taken during the review of the 1985 case, provided the means for the officers' deception.
The officers dabbed the defendant's blood in the victim's car, on the car key and on the bullet, according to Strang.
Why else wouldn't investigators have found Halbach's key lying in plain sight in Avery's bedroom after several exhaustive searches of his home? Strang asked.
Lenk did not find the car key until eight days after Halbach disappeared, according to Strang. And it did not have any of the victim's DNA or fingerprints on it.
The bullet that tested positive for Halbach's DNA was not recovered until five months after her murder, according to the defense. Despite several searches that turned up other bullets and shell casings in the garage, the incriminating one wasn't found until March 2006.
The defense also raised questions over the bone fragments found near Avery's trailer. Strang said other fragments were found in the gravel pits that surround the salvage yard, but were not entered into evidence because they were too badly destroyed to be linked to Halbach.
Strang contends the bones were moved from another site to the burn barrel where police recovered them.
"If he's the one that burned the body, he's not going to bring [the bones] back 20 yards outside his bedroom window," Strang said.
Avery is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, false imprisonment, mutilating a corpse and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Manitowoc County Circuit Judge Patrick Willis dismissed kidnapping and sexual assault charges before the trial.
Testimony is expected to continue tomorrow in the trial, which is slated to last six weeks. Coverage is available live on Court TV Extra.
Cleared of rape after 18 years, now convicted of murder
• Steven Avery convicted of murdering photographer, Teresa Halbach
• Halbach's brother pleased with verdict, believes sister's spirit guided jury
• Avery faces mandatory life prison term
• Avery spent 18 years in prison for a rape; later cleared by DNA test
CHILTON, Wisconsin (AP) -- A man who spent 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit was convicted Sunday of murdering a photographer, whose charred bones were found in a burn pit outside his home.
Steven Avery, 44, shook his head when the verdict was read. He faces a mandatory life prison term for killing Teresa Halbach, 25, on Halloween 2005 near his family's salvage yard.
Halbach disappeared October 31, 2005, after going to the yard in rural Manitowoc County to photograph a minivan that Avery's sister had for sale through Auto Trader Magazine. Avery had called that morning to request the photo, testimony showed.
A few days later, Halbach's vehicle was found in the Avery salvage lot under branches, pieces of wood and car parts. Investigators then spent a week on the 40-acre property and found charred fragments of her bones in a pit behind Avery's garage and in a barrel, along with her camera and cell phone.
Two years before Halbach died, Avery was released from prison after serving 18 years for a Manitowoc County rape that DNA analysis showed he did not commit. He later settled a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the county for $400,000 and used it for his defense.
After the verdict was read, Halbach's brother, Mike Halbach, told reporters that he was pleased and that he believed his sister's spirit guided the jury.
"What matters is that Steven Avery is going to be in prison for rest of his life, which from the start is what we wanted," he said.
The jury convicted Avery of first-degree intentional homicide and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was acquitted of mutilating a corpse. The panel deliberated over three days and heard a month of testimony.
Defense lawyer Dean Strang said Avery was disappointed but not despondent. He said they will consider challenging the conviction within 30 days.
Avery's nephew Brendan Dassey is due for trial next month. In March 2006, he confessed to helping kill and rape Halbach.
Prosecutors then added charges of sexual assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment to Avery's case. But Dassey recanted his confession and rejected a plea deal that would have required him to testify against his uncle.
The judge dismissed the sexual assault and kidnapping charges against Avery in January because prosecutors could not guarantee the nephew would testify. The judge dismissed the false imprisonment charge Monday, saying the jurors didn't have enough evidence to convict Avery of the charge.
Mike Halbach said his family expects Dassey's trial to have a similar outcome after it begins April 16.
In closing arguments, Strang had told jurors their verdict could "set a lot of things right" for Avery because of his previous wrongful conviction.
"The 1985 case won't matter so much anymore if justice is done this time," he said.
But special prosecutor Ken Kratz said it was "absolutely improper" for the defense to ask jurors to take the old case into account.
He told jurors the prosecution's theory of what happened -- that Avery backed Halbach's vehicle into his empty garage, closed the garage door and at some point shot Halbach at least twice and put her in the back of her vehicle.
Avery's attorneys had claimed Manitowoc County Sheriff's Sgt. Andrew Colborn and Lt. James Lenk, embarrassed by Avery's wrongful-conviction lawsuit, planted evidence to make sure he would be convicted of the murder, including putting Avery's blood in Halbach's vehicle.
The lawyers claimed the blood came from an unsecured vial from Avery's appeals of the rape case. They also claimed the bones were moved to where they were found.
To acquit Avery, Kratz said, the jury would have to have believed someone else killed Halbach and "skillfully exploited" the officials' supposed animosity to get Avery framed for the killing.
"That's absurd," he said. "If this wasn't such an important decision that you had to make, it would be laughable."
Colborn and Lenk testified they never planted evidence and had no anger or embarrassment over the lawsuit.
I watched a program called Dateline here in Australia yesterday and this was the story , when it started I kept thinking I know this name but it was about the wrongfull rape charge they even interviewed the guy whos hair gave them the DNA to clear him of the rape, As soon as its showed you the young woman it all came back to me why I knew the name. Makes you wonder if they had it right the first time or was it the fact he spent 18 years locked up with criminals that he turned out that way! They were saying he had to admit to a crime he did even though he didnt do it.............or did he??
Dont worry about the little things that go wrong, save it up wait for a doozie to hit you!
Testimony: Dassey pressured to recant confession
Five-day appeals hearing concludes
By John Lee • Gannett Wisconsin Media • January 23, 2010
MANITOWOC — Brendan Dassey was under tremendous pressure by family members to recant his confession that he and his uncle Steven Avery killed Teresa Halbach in 2005, according to evidence presented Friday at an appeals hearing.
Prosecutors spent much of the fifth day of Dassey's post-conviction hearing trying to undermine the defense contention that Dassey was a susceptible teenager coerced by police to admit he raped Halbach on Oct. 31, 2005, then helped Avery kill her and dispose of her body in a burn pit.
"You stick to your goddamn guns," Allen Avery, Dassey's grandfather, said in one recording made in May 2006 while Dassey was jailed in Manitowoc County and played during Friday's hearing.
"(Tell them) they made me say all of that. Stick to your guns. Don't go for a plea bargain."
Dassey, 20, and Avery, 47, were convicted in 2007 of killing the 25-year-old freelance photographer from Calumet County and sentenced to life in prison. Both are seeking to overturn their convictions on grounds ranging from coercion in Dassey's case to incompetent counsel in both cases.
Prosecutors and the defense have about 100 days after transcripts from the five days of hearings are prepared to file additional briefs. Fox has until summer to make a decision.
Attorneys from the state Office of Public Defender have also asked for a new trial for Avery, and that motion is being considered by Manitowoc County Judge Patrick Willis, who presided over Avery's six-week trial. Willis has until late January to issue a decision.
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