‘Making a Murderer’: Kathleen Zellner keeps eye on other suspects in killing of Teresa Halbach
(ROCKFORD ADVOCATE) – Post-conviction attorney Kathleen Zellner on Monday furthered her claim that there were more viable suspects in the 2005 killing of Teresa Halbach than Making a Murderer’s Steven Avery.
As she alleged this spring, Halbach’s on-again, off-again boyfriend was directly tied to the crime scene. In the 1,200-page motion filed on June 7, she suggested the real killer duped police into eyeing Avery, and that someone with a “background in science” scraped blood off of Avery’s sink and planted it in Halbach’s SUV. Halbach’s ex, Ryan Hillegas, is a nurse.
According to Monday’s motion, a page from Teresa Halbach’s day planner puts Hillegas inside her vehicle after she went missing and by all accounts after she’d been killed.
“It is undisputed that Ms. Halbach’s day planner was in Ms. Halbach’s vehicle at the time of her murder,” the motion reads. “It is undisputed that Mr. Hillegas, who was in possession of the day planner, gave the one-page document to a friend of Ms. Halbach, who turned it over to police on Nov. 3, 2005.”
On that page are notes Zellner says Halbach took during a phone conversation she had with a photography client the afternoon of October 31, 2005. Halbach was driving during the call and pulled over to check her planner before making an appointment with the client. Zellner further alleges that even though the client was interviewed by police, a report was never turned over to Steven Avery’s trial attorneys.
“If trial defense counsel would have been provided with the report of the conversation, they would have realized that Ms. Halbach left her residence before 11:35 a.m., on October 31, and that her day planner was in her vehicle at the time of her murder,” Zellner continues. “Defense counsel would have been able to link Mr. Hillegas to the crime scene because he had possession of the day planner. This is highly incriminating evidence.”
Zellner claims the evidence meets legal standards that would have allowed Avery’s trial counsel to not only show that Halbach’s former lover was a solid suspect but that it would have brought reasonable doubt into the jury box.
“If Avery’s jury had been allowed to hear this evidence, there is a reasonable probability that he would have been found not guilty,” she says.
In a somewhat shocking move, Zellner also names two other possible suspects she says were in the same location as Teresa Halbach after Steven Avery says she left his property the day of the murder. They are Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych, Brendan Dassey’s older brother and now stepfather, respectively. But that’s not all. Zellner says that Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych both lied on the stand and that prosecutors knew it.
“The state used Bobby Dassey’s testimony knowing it was false,” she says. “The state utilized this testimony as the centerpiece of its argument that Mr. Avery was the last person to see Ms. Halbach alive, all while knowing it to be false.”
Bobby Dassey testified that he saw Halbach walking toward Steven Avery’s trailer. He then says he showered and walked toward his Chevy Blazer. He didn’t see Teresa Halbach at that point, but her Toyota RAV4 was still parked near the trailer, Bobby testified. But, those statements were falsely made under oath, Zellner says, and should have been impeached based on an interview with another Dassey brother, Bryan.
According to Bryan Dassey, Bobby told him he saw Teresa Halbach leave the property around the time Steven Avery claims she drove away.
“Mr. Avery’s trial defense counsel’s hired investigator was unaware that Bryan Dassey made any statement about Bobby Dassey seeing Teresa Halbach leave the property on October 31,” Zellner says. “If trial defense and prior post-conviction investigators had recognized the value of Bryan Dassey’s impeachment testimony as to Bobby Dassey’s statement that Ms. Halbach’s vehicle was still on the property when he left to go hunting, they could have undermined a core aspect of the state’s case: that Teresa Halbach never left the Avery property.”
And leave the property, Halbach did, Zellner says. And there was another vehicle behind hers. It was the Blazer driven by Bobby Dassey, who left for his deer stand just after Halbach began driving toward Highway 147. Dassey was about 30 second behind her.
The motion claims that Halbach drove toward 147 at 2:36:30. Bobby Dassey left at 2:37. Avery was walking toward his driveway at that time, Zellner says, and reached the middle at 2:37:32. On his right, Avery saw Halbach pulling turning off his property, When he looked to his left, Bobby’s truck was gone. Bobby caught up with Halbach around 2:41 p.m., around the time she received a phone call that went to voicemail.
What happens next, according to Monday’s motion, is the assault and murder of Teresa Halbach at around 2:45 p.m., in a nearby cul-de-sac. The theory directly contrasts the one Zellner floated in June that had Halbach being beaten to death at her home in Hilbert later in the day.
“The deeper we dig into the Avery conviction the more evidence we uncover of his innocence,” the attorney told the Inquisitr Monday.
As for Scott Tadych, he placed himself at the location where Halbach received the 2:41 call when he testified that he passed Bobby Dassey on the road. But, that testimony is challenged by discrepancies between what he said during police interviews and what he testified to in court.
Tadych initially stated that between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m., on October 31, he saw his now wife Barb Janda, Bobby’s mother, standing by a three-foot fire with Steven Avery. In his second story, he said one of her sons with Avery.
“At [Avery’s] trial, Tadych testified that it was it was later, not until 7:30 or 7:45 p.m., that he saw a fire behind Avery’s garage,” the motion reads. “This time, the flames are eight or 10 feet high.”
Zellner also said Tadych changed his story about whether Barb spent the night at his house on October 31. He first told investigators she went home around midnight, but later claimed she stayed. Tadych then testified that Barb went home between 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. Tadych also did not go to work on October 31 and was known as a “chronic liar” according to his supervisor, the motion says.
“It is reasonable to conclude that Bobby Dassey, Scott Tadych, and Teresa Halbach were all in the same location at the time of her last known activity, i.e., a forwarding cell phone call prior to her death,” the motion continues.
Zellner does not allude to Bobby Dassey or Tadych as the killers, only those who should have been thoroughly investigated. Bobby Dassey was eventually cleared. But, she says there was plenty about him to raise red flags with cops. Violent pornographic images of women were found on Dassey’s home computer; there were also two photos of Teresa Halbach. The images were pulled from the internet in 2005 by Bobby Dassey, Zellner claims, indicating he was potentially at risk of committing a violent, sexually motivated crime.
The bullet prosecutors say was shot through Halbach’s skull did not penetrate bone, but wood, Zellner again claims in her latest brief. And there was no blood on the fragment either, just red paint. The technology she says that offers such proof was not available in 2005 and should be admitted as evidence. Sheboygan County Circuit Judge Angela Sutkiewicz dismissed that claim in the October 3 decision.
Zellner says Sutkiewicz was wrong, and that Avery deserves a hearing instead of a six-page summary judgment that denied the June 7 motion in its entirety. Issues Sutkiewicz ruled were waived should also be allowed, Zellner says.
And although she does not expect a trial court to free her client, she still intends to fill the record with as much evidence as she can to prepare a higher court to hear the case. She’s also not giving up on her bid to free Steven Avery.
“It does not matter how long it takes, what it costs, or what obstacles we have to overcome,” Zellner said. “Our efforts to win Mr. Avery’s freedom will never end. Giving up on his case would be accepting that someone else got away with murder, and our justice system is just too incompetent, indifferent and/or inflexible to recognize this huge mistake and rectify it. We are going to keep ringing the doorbell at this so-called court of justice until someone answers it.”
Zellner has spent more than $600,000 of her own money on Avery’s case since becoming his attorney in 2016. In addition to Monday’s motion to reconsider the judge’s October 3 ruling, she filed a motion to vacate that decision on October 6. She is now requesting an evidentiary hearing.
Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are both serving life sentences in Halbach’s death. Avery is not eligible for parole. Dassey could be released as early as 2048 if his conviction stands. The status of his case is pending in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The court heard the case en banc September 26. A decision is expected in the coming months.