Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Court charges Avery on 2 counts

MANITOWOC (AP) — A man who served 18 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit was charged Tuesday with killing and mutilating a freelance photographer who had an appointment with him the last day she was seen.

Investigators searching for Teresa Halbach found human teeth and bones in a burn pit behind Steven Avery's garage, authorities said. Preliminary results Tuesday identified the remains as Halbach's, according to a criminal complaint charging Avery with first-degree intentional homicide and mutilation of a corpse.

Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel said in a phone interview Tuesday night that all indications are the remains are Halbach's, but the FBI will do further analysis to make a positive identification.


Authorities believe the charred remains are those of the 25-year-old Calumet County woman, who vanished Oct. 31 after going to the Avery family's auto salvage business to photograph a minivan for sale for Auto Trader Magazine.

Halbach's family members searching for her five days later found her sport utility vehicle at the salvage yard.

Avery, 43, has denied any knowledge of Halbach’s disappearance.
He said he saw Halbach Oct. 31 outside his mobile home and paid her $40 in cash, the complaint said.

Investigators found Avery's and Halbach's blood inside her SUV and her vehicle key, with Avery's DNA on it, hidden in Avery's bedroom, according to the complaint.
Avery told investigators he never was in Halbach's vehicle, so his blood could not be inside her SUV, according to the complaint.

He was taken into custody last week and charged with a weapons violation.
Avery appeared in Manitowoc County Circuit Court on Tuesday, when Judge Patrick Willis set bail at $500,000 cash and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Dec. 6 on the homicide and mutilation charges, which were filed because the body was burned.

Avery, dressed in black-and-white striped prison clothes, looked straight ahead and said nothing during the 12-minute hearing, which did not cover the weapons charge. The judge set a tentative status conference Monday on that case.

The homicide charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, while the mutilation charge carries up to 12 1/2 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

Avery has repeatedly told reporters he believes he is being set up because of his pending $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County for his wrongful conviction.

After the hearing, one of Avery’s public defenders, Craig Johnson, said prosecutors also had no doubt about Avery's guilt in the rape case 20 years ago, and they were wrong.

According to the complaint:

  • Leslie Eisenberg, a forensic anthropologist, described the bone fragments as the result of mutilation of a corpse. Almost every bone in the body was recovered from the scene. Pagel said no whole bones were recovered. The anthropologist is trying to determine if the body was dismembered, Pagel said.
  • Tree branches and vehicle parts were around Halbach's SUV, as if someone tried to hide it.
  • A dried red substance believed to be blood was on Avery's bathroom floor in front of a washer and dryer.
  • Handcuffs and leg irons were found in his trailer.
  • A .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle and .50-caliber black powder muzzleloader were found in Avery’s bedroom.
  • Halbach’s license plates were found crumpled in a scrap vehicle at the salvage yard.
  • Burned clothing and a partially burned shovel were found in a barrel near Avery’s trailer.
  • Steel tire belts had been used as fire accelerants.

Pagel said investigators were still waiting for results on other DNA found on the property that is not Halbach’s or Avery's. They were also still investigating if anyone else in the Avery family was involved.

One of Avery's cousins, Dave Cherney, said Tuesday he believes the evidence was planted and his cousin was innocent.

"I think the whole family is being targeted because of the Avery name," he said.
The parents of both Avery and Halbach attended the hearing. Halbach's brother, Mike Halbach, said it hurt to look at Avery.

"How anyone, if it was him or not, could do this to another human is beyond belief," he said.

Teresa Halbach's visitation was scheduled Friday night and the funeral Saturday in the Calumet County community of St. John.

Avery was released from prison in 2003 after DNA evidence exonerated him in the 1985 rape. He has lived near and worked at his family's salvage yard near Mishicot, a rural area 90 miles north of Milwaukee, ever since then.

Calumet County investigators have led the investigation because of Avery's lawsuit against Manitowoc County.

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