‘MaM: Brendan Dassey nowhere to be found in Steven Avery’s first alibi
(ROCKFORD ADVOCATE) – While Steven Avery claims that he and nephew Brendan Dassey had a bonfire behind his garage the evening of October 31, 2005, it wasn’t the alibi he gave police during the Teresa Halbach missing person’s investigation.
Within hours of the report that the photographer was missing, Avery was naming alibi witnesses, those able to verify his whereabouts. He claims Delores Avery, his mother; sister, Barb Janda; ex-fiancée Jodi Stachowski; nephew, Bobby Dassey; brother, Earl Avery and a man named Robert Fabian saw or spoke to him that night. Avery even places a deer claimed by Bobby Dassey in his initial alibi. He told police before his arrest that he watched Bobby skin the animal in Barb’s garage on October 31. But, he makes no mention of a key figure in the story that would eventually unfold: Brendan Dassey.
Some say Avery didn’t name Brendan because he did not see the 16-year-old when he arrived from school at 3:45 p.m. That would be explainable had Brendan not told police he saw Halbach taking pictures and talking to Avery when he and his brother Blaine got off the bus. And it could be argued that while Brendan saw his uncle talking to the photographer, Avery still didn’t see him. But that was never determined because Steven only claimed to have talked to Bobby Dassey that day, not Brendan. And he claimed Halbach arrived “between 2 and 2:30,” when Brendan was still at school.
Avery originally told Marinette County deputies that a few minutes after Halbach left his property, his mother arrived to give him his mail. He didn’t leave the family property and had dinner at his mother’s house that evening. He received two phone calls on his landline from Jodi and was in bed shortly after the second.
But approximately 25 minutes into his interview with deputies on November 6, 2005, his story changed. It marked the first time Avery mentioned walking over to Barb’s after placing the Autotrader he received from Halbach on his desk. Avery claimed Bobby was home at that time. Moments later, he said Bobby was “gone,” but that he talked to him between 11 a.m. and noon.
In another version of events, Avery doesn’t visit Barb after Halbach leaves. He stays in his trailer and receives a phone call from Jodi, then has dinner at his mother’s. He also claims Bobby was home when Halbach was there but is unsure if he saw her take pictures or leave the property.
Bobby Dassey would later testify that on October 31, 2005, he slept until 2 p.m. A short time later, he saw Halbach photograph his mother’s van and walk towards his uncle’s trailer. When he got out of the shower a few minutes later, he saw Halbach’s SUV but did not see her or Avery.
Between November 3 and November 6, 2005, Avery named a total of four alibi witnesses. He claims he spoke to Bobby Dassey between 11 a.m. and noon on October 31. His mother is the second witness. He was with her just after he says Halbach left the property and during dinner. Although unsure, Avery said Chuck may have eaten with them. Jodi, the fourth witness, called Avery twice on October 31. Avery made no reference to Brendan Dassey, who, on November 6, told Marinette County deputies he saw Steven and Halbach talking. Avery also denied having a fire on Halloween or using any of the burn barrels on the property.
Still No Brendan
Brendan Dassey was not part of his uncle’s alibi according to the version of events Avery told Tom Fassbender and Mark Wiegert on November 9 either. Before Wiegert took him into custody that day, Avery said on October 31, he was at the family auto salvage business at 8:30 a.m., when he used his cellphone to call Autotrader to set the appointment with Halbach. He left work at 11 a.m. and returned to his trailer, where he made calls to Jodi’s probation officer and attorney. He called the magazine office a second time and was told Teresa was coming that afternoon. While he was waiting for her, Avery called Halbach on her cellphone, but she did not answer, he told Wiegert.
Avery said Teresa took a single picture of the van as he was walking out to meet her. He paid her $40 before she got in her vehicle, handed him a copy of Autotrader and drove away. Avery said he saw Bobby Dassey’s vehicle at that time but did not talk to him. And unlike his claim a few days before that he spoke to Bobby that morning, he said on November 9 that he did not remember if he saw him.
Avery places his mother in his November 9 story too, maintaining that she stayed for 10 minutes bringing him his mail. He then called Teresa Halbach to ask her to photograph another vehicle—a front-end loader. She didn’t answer, Avery said, adding that he called her a total of “two or three times” on October 31.
Avery said he was in Barb’s garage to watch Bobby clean a deer for a while before he spent the rest of the night listening to country music, taking to Jodi and watching pornography until approximately 10:30. He slept until 6 a.m. the next day, Avery said.
However, a few minutes after giving Mark Wiegert and Tom Fassbender that version of the story, Avery changed his it again, saying Bobby skinned the deer on Friday, November 4, not Monday. He then attempted to shut down the interview but continued to talk until he was placed under arrest.
According to Avery, at around 5 p.m. October 31, Earl and Earl’s brother-in-law Robert Fabian stopped at his trailer on their way to hunt rabbits in the area where Teresa Halbach’s SUV was eventually found. While Avery’s version of the exchange happened near the trailer and doesn’t include more than a few pleasantries, Fabian told police a different story.
Fabian says he arrived at Avery’s Auto Salvage looking for Earl at around 4:30 p.m. Instead of meeting Earl right away, he says he encountered brothers Chuck and Steven. According to Fabian, he overheard Chuck ask Steven if the photographer had been there yet.
Fabian said he jokingly asked Chuck, “Are you getting your picture taken?” Chuck replied that they often use Autotrader to sell vehicles.
“Steven Avery replies to Charles [Chuck] Avery that, ‘no, she hadn’t shown up yet,’” according to a police report written by Calumet County Investigator Gary Steier.
Fabian claims that after an unsuccessful rabbit hunt, they headed back to the shop, passing Steven Avery’s trailer. There, Fabian said Avery was near his black pickup truck, which was hooked to a trailer holding a snowmobile. Fabian also noticed Avery’s appearance had seemingly changed.
“Robert indicates that Steven had changed clothes,” Steier’s report said. “It appeared Steven had just cleaned up.”
As for the snowmobile, Fabian said Avery told him he was “taking the sled up north.”
His appearance is not all Fabian told police was different about Avery. He saw smoke coming from a burn barrel just north of Avery’s driveway. He also said he saw one of the Dassey boys, possibly Bryan or Bobby, standing next to the truck.
There were no other vehicles present near Avery’s trailer, Fabian said.
Fabian told police that when he and Earl passed the area where Halbach’s SUV would be found, nothing was amiss. He said had the Toyota been there, Earl would have noticed it because he “knows every car that’s in the yard.”
Avery, along with his mother and Bryan Dassey, drove his Pontiac Grand Am north to Crivitz, Wisconsin, Saturday, November 5.
Still No Brendan
Aside from telling Wiegert that “the boys,” which investigators knew to be Blaine and Brendan, would have been the first ones to arrive home on Halloween, Avery doesn’t mention Brendan Dassey on November 9. He identified Brendan as “his sister’s kid” on November 6, when O’Neill saw the teen at the family cabin in Crivitz.
While Avery’s lawyers are now questioning Scott Tadych’s testimony that he saw Steven Avery and one of Barb’s sons standing by a bonfire near Avery’s garage on October 31, Avery makes no mention of Scott. Tadych was near Avery’s trailer twice that night—when he picked up Barb on his way to Green Bay and when he brought her home. Flames were almost as high as the garage the second time Scott was on the property, he said.
In a 2016 affidavit filed with Kathleen Zellner’s 1,200-page petition for post-conviction relief on June 7, 2017, Avery claims that on October 31, 2005, he started the bonfire in his burn pit at 7 p.m. Dassey attended but was home before Stachowski called Steven from the Manitowoc County Jail at 8:57 p.m.
Avery claims Robert Fabian was mistaken about the day he hunted rabbits with Earl because he did not burn garbage on October 31. The last time he used his burn barrel was a week before Halloween, Avery said.
Avery and Dassey are serving life in prison for first-degree murder – Avery without the possibility of parole. Zellner claims she has enough new evidence to show that someone other than Avery killed Teresa Halbach. She also claims she has shown that existing evidence was planted by law enforcement or the real killer. She is currently awaiting a decision on a motion she filed earlier this month asking a circuit court judge to reconsider a decision to deny her June 7 motion.
Dassey’s lawyers have argued his case all the way through the federal courts, claiming the confession he gave Wiegert and Fassbender in 2006 was coerced. A federal magistrate agreed in 2016 and vacated Dassey’s conviction, only to have the state of Wisconsin appeal the decision. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has now heard the case twice, including once en banc. A decision is pending.