‘Making a Murderer’: Police learned Teresa Halbach had been raped from Brendan Dassey
(ROCKFORD ADVOCATE) – Charges against “Making a Murderer” subjects Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are being discussed again, drawing questions about links to Teresa Halbach and how investigators theorized that she had been sexually assaulted in 2005.
Police uncovered no physical evidence that Halbach had been sexually assaulted. There was no semen found in Avery’s trailer, and only about half of Teresa’s bones were recovered. What could have preserved Dassey or Avery’s DNA was destroyed by fire. It is believed Avery’s bedding and Halbach’s clothing, including her bra and underwear, were also burned. This leads those who claim Avery and Dassey were framed to assert that investigators Tom Fassbender and Mark Wiegert fabricated the sexual assault theory by planting it in Brendan Dassey’s mind during an invalid confession.
What is known is that the sexual assault theory began early in the investigation. However, according to Brendan Dassey’s first interview with police on November 6, 2005, it was introduced months before Fassbender and Wiegert ever spoke to him. Further, it doesn’t appear to have originated with law enforcement, but with Dassey himself.
As Marinette County Detective Anthony O’Neill focuses on one of Dassey’s early stories that he saw Halbach leave the Avery property after 3:45 p.m. on October 31, the teen drops a telling hint.
“Do you think he ‘did it?’” Dassey asks O’Neill, referring to Steven Avery.
“Why would you ask me that?” O’Neill eventually asks. “Did What?”
“Raped her,” Dassey replies.
The exchange marks the first mention of a sexual assault.
It has been suggested that Dassey learned that Halbach may have been raped, according to news reports following her disappearance. However, the only in-depth report about the missing Autotrader photographer between November 3 and November 6 included an interview with Steven Avery, during which he claims Halbach arrived between “2 and 2:30,” stayed for five minutes, then left.
Avery makes no mention of a possible sexual assault. He did, however, attempt to correlate Teresa’s disappearance with his wrongful conviction in the 1985 rape of Penny Beernsten.
“They’ve got to be going to through hell,” Avery said of Halbach’s parents. “I figured my ma and my dad, everyone else–my family–went through hell when I did 18 years for something I didn’t do. I figured they are going through the same thing, cuz they lost somebody or whatever. She’s got to be out there somewhere. Somebody should be looking.”
Information about the alleged sexual assault of Teresa Halbach was not released to the public until after Brendan Dassey was arrested. Fassbender and Wiegert first hinted about it on Feb. 27, 2006, at Mishicot High School, where they learned from Dassey that Halbach was not clothed when she was placed in the bonfire. Brendan initially denied that Avery attempted to have sex with Teresa, but reveals Avery had a cut on his finger.
The Feb. 27 interview continued at the Two River Police Department, where Dassey, after being Mirandized, pinned the murder on Steven Avery. He mentions that Avery was “scratched” by Halbach as he attempted to tie her up, but does not mention rape. It was on March 1, at the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, that he again speaks of the sexual assault.
“What else did [Steven Avery] do to her?” Wiegert asks, after Dassey says that Avery stabbed Teresa.
“Raped her,” Dassey said, adding that his uncle told him about the assault.
Later in the March 1 interview, Dassey said he also sexually assaulted Halbach before they carried her to Avery’s garage where she was killed.
Sexual assault charges against Steven Avery were dismissed. He was found guilty of first-degree murder, not guilty on the charge of mutilating a corpse, and guilty of possession of a firearm as a felon. Dassey was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault, along with first-degree murder and mutilating a corpse. Both men are serving life sentences, Avery without parole.
Dassey’s attorneys claim that details gleaned from the Feb. 27 and March 1 interviews were coerced–that Wiegert and Fassbender made the then 16-year-old false promises of leniency. A federal magistrate agreed in 2016 and vacated the conviction. The State of Wisconsin has since appealed that ruling, and the case now hangs in the balance of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.