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16th Oct 2018

Making A Murderer: A timeline of the major events which lead us to Part Two

Paul Moore

With Part Two released this week, here’s a reminder of the events that unfolded

Making A Murderer: Part Two is released this week as the Emmy Award-winning documentary series returns to Netflix.

Given the fact that so much information was depicted in the first ten episodes of Making A Murderer, here’s a reminder of the major events revolving around Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey, and the murder of Teresa Halbach.

Making A Murderer timeline

1979-1980: Steven Avery is stopped for reckless driving, speeding and being a minor transporting an intoxicant.

11/6&8/80: Steven breaks into Northern Frontier Bar in the Town of Gibson; steals two cases of beer, two sandwiches, a toolbox and $14 in quarters.

03/23/81: Steven is convicted of two felony burglary charges for breaking into the Northern Frontier Bar and sentenced to two years in prison. The sentence is stayed, and he is placed on probation for five years and ordered to spend 10 months in the Manitowoc County Jail and pay $1,399.85 in restitution.

09/02/82: Steven is charged with cruelty to animals for allegedly pouring gasoline on a cat and throwing it into bonfire.  Steven pleads no contest.

01/03/85 – Steven Avery runs his cousin, Sandy Morris, off the road, points an unloaded rifle at her and yells at her to stop spreading rumours about him. Sandy Morris is the wife of a Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Deputy. Steven admits to what he did and is charged with multiple felonies including attempted kidnapping.

07/29/85 – While Steven is out on bail awaiting trial for the Sandy Morris incident, a prominent woman named Penny Beerntsen is sexually assaulted and nearly killed while running on a local beach. Sandy Morris’ friend Judy Dvorak is the Manitowoc sheriff’s deputy assigned to go to the hospital to take Penny’s statement.

Steven is 23-years-old and has a wife and five small children, including 6-day-old twins and a stepson, when he is arrested for sexual assault and attempted murder within hours of the attack.

07/85 – The Manitowoc City Police Department is surveilling a sexual predator named Gregory Allen every day that month except the day Penny is attacked.

08/85 – Sheriff  Tom Kocourek and District Attorney Denis Vogel are told by the police and their colleagues that Gregory Allen should be investigated but Kocourek and Vogel refuse to change course.  None of the information about Gregory Allen is ever turned over to Steven’s defence.

Making A Murderer timeline

12/14/85: Despite 16 alibi witnesses who can account for Steven’s whereabouts every minute of the day of the assault, a six-man, six-woman jury deliberates nine hours before finding Steven guilty of attempted first-degree homicide, first-degree sexual assault and false imprisonment.

01/86 – Steven is sentenced by Manitowoc County Circuit Court Judge Fred Hazlewood to 32 years in prison, though his six-year sentence from January 1985 Sandy Morris incident is to run concurrently.  While in prison Steven is not eligible for parole because he refuses to falsely admit his guilt.

05/87 – Steven’s wife Lori files for divorce and petitions the court to terminate Steven’s visitation with his children.

1995 – Gregory Allen is convicted of a violent sexual assault in Green Bay and sentenced to 60 years in prison.   There is evidence that in 1995 Andrew Colborn of Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department received a phone call from a Brown County (Green Bay) officer that Gregory Allen has admitted to having committed a sexual assault in Manitowoc for which someone else is serving time.  This information is never shared with Steven’s appellate attorneys.

4/24/96 – Steven’s lawyers file a post-conviction Motion and request an Evidentiary Hearing.

09/23/96 – DNA science is only advanced enough to divide the population into groups according to genetic markers known aalleles, and Steven and Penny happen to have the same alleles so at this point DNA cannot exclude Steven as Penny Beerntsen’s attacker.  However, someone else’s DNA is found under the victim’s fingernails and Steven’s post-conviction lawyers argue it most likely belongs to the actual perpetrator.  Judge Hazlewood denies Steven a new trial.

09/03/97 – The Wisconsin Court of Appeals denies Steven’s motion and upholds Judge Hazlewood’s decision.

10/03/97 –  Steven’s petition for review is filed with the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

11/20/97 –  The Wisconsin Supreme Court denies Steven’s Petition for Review.

2001 – Steven’s mother, Dolores, writes to Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project in New York asking him to take Steven’s case.  The case is referred to the Wisconsin Innocence Project (WIP) in Madison.

Making A Murderer timeline

2002 – Judge Hazlewood grants the Wisconsin Innocence Project’s motion for new scientific testing.  The evidence is sent to the State Crime Lab where it sits for a year before it is tested.

09/10/03 – DNA results come in and match the man whom the city police were watching 18 years earlier, Gregory Allen.  Steven is the first person in Wisconsin’s history to be exonerated through DNA evidence.

09/11/03 – Steven is released from prison after 18 years.  His homecoming is a media event.

09/03 – It is discovered that District Attorney Denis Vogel had prosecuted Gregory Allen for a similar crime on the same beach two years before Penny was attacked and knew about Gregory Allen when he prosecuted Steven.

09/12/03 – The day after Steven’s exoneration, the members of the sheriff’s department involved in the 1995 phone call regarding Gregory Allen’s admission (Sergeant Andrew Colborn and Lieutenant James Lenk) write reports about the phone call from 8 years earlier, and Sheriff Petersen places the reports in his safe.

09/18/03 – The Wisconsin Attorney General (“AG”) Peg Lautenschlager launches an investigation into the 1985 case to determine whether there were any criminal or ethical violations.  Agents with the Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation interview witnesses including Tom Kocourek, Penny Beerntsen, Judy Dvorak, etc.

12/03 – Wisconsin State Representative Mark Gundrum convenes the Avery Task Force.  The mission of the bipartisan task force, whose participants include former US Attorney General Janet Reno, is to identify problems in the Wisconsin criminal justice system and suggest reforms.

12/17/03 – The AG’s investigators’ reports into the 1985 case included evidence of misconduct but the final report issued by the AG stated that there was no criminal or ethical misconduct.  One of the lawyers who drafted the report was Tom Fallon (who later prosecutes Steven and Brendan in the Halbach case).

Making A Murderer timeline

10/12/04 – Disappointed that the AG let law enforcement off the hook, Steven files a $36 million civil rights lawsuit against Manitowoc County, the former sheriff, Tom Kocourek, and the former district attorney, Denis Vogel in both their official and individual capacity.

11/04 – Steven’s civil lawyers discover suspicious decision-making at high levels in the AG’s office and consider adding the Aaa defendant to the lawsuit.

10/26/05 – Former Chief Deputy of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department Eugene Kusche gives damning testimony in a deposition about the cover-up of Steven’s wrongful conviction.

10/31/05 – A 25-year-old photographer named Teresa Halbach has aappointment with Steven to take pictures of his sister Barb’s van for Auto Trader Magazine.

11/01/05 – The day after Teresa photographs Barb’s van the Avery Bill – legislation that came out of the Avery Task Force – passes the Wisconsin State Legislature.  The bill is intended to reform law enforcement’s investigative practices statewide.

11/03/05 – Teresa’s mother, Karen Halbach, reports Teresa missing.  The media report that Steven was one of Teresa’s last appointments on the day she disappeared.  Sergeant Andrew Colborn questions Steven about Teresa’s visit on Halloween.  Steven says she completed her business transaction within a few minutes of her arrival and then left.

11/04/05 – Steven gives Lieutenant James Lenk and Detective Dave Remiker of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) permission to search his trailer and they find nothing.

Making A Murderer timeline

11/05/05 – Volunteer searchers are granted permission to search the Avery Auto Salvage Yard (ASYD) to look for Teresa or her car (Toyota RAV4).  It is a 40-acre property with more than 3,000 vehicles and they find Teresa’s car in about 30-35 minutes.

Law enforcement takes over ASYD and conducts an 8-day search all the while excluding the Averys from their homes and business.

The authorities hold daily press conferences about the case.  Citing a conflict of interest due to Steven’s pending lawsuit, MCSD turns control of the investigation over to Calumet County Sheriff’s Department and the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).  Calumet is a neighbouring county and is where Teresa resides.  Calumet County Detective Mark Wiegert and DCI Special Agent Tom Fassbender are named co-lead investigators of the case.

11/07/05 – Manitowoc County District Attorney Mark Rohrer announces aa press conference that he has handed the matter over to special prosecutor Ken Kratz, District Attorney of Calumet County.

11/09/05 – Steven is arrested the day before former sheriff Tom Kocourek is scheduled to be deposed in Steven’s lawsuit.  The charge on 11/9 is Felon in Possession of a Firearm for rifles that are seized during the searches.

Steven is interrogated by Mark Wiegert and Tom Fassbender.  He maintains his innocence and says that evidence is being planted by Manitowoc County officers in order to frame him and derail his $36 million lawsuit that county insurers said they would not cover.

Within days of Steven’s arrest, he would have received $425,000 from the State as wrongful conviction compensation.  Because of his arrest, the money never materialises.

11/10-15/05 – Authorities announce that they have found Teresa’s car key in Steven’s bedroom, burned remains in Steven’s burn pit and Steven’s blood in Teresa’s car.  Steven is also charged with Teresa’s murder and mutilation of corpse and faces mandatory life in prison.

Making A Murderer timeline

11/05 – After his arrest, the Innocence Project takes Steven off its website, and the Avery Bill is renamed the Criminal Justice Reform Package, which Governor Doyle signs it into law.

12/06/05 – At Steven’s preliminary hearing, it is revealed that Sergeant Andrew Colborn and Lieutenant James Lenk (two MCSD officers on the verge of being added as defendants in Steven’s lawsuit) are two of the officers who found Teresa’s car key in Steven’s bedroom on the seventh search, after Calumet County had reportedly taken over the investigation.

01/06 – Using the murder of Teresa Halbach, Wisconsin State Senate President, Alan Lasee, introduces a referendum to reinstate the death penalty in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin has not had the death penalty since 1853.

02/14/06 – Three months after his arrest, Steven settles his lawsuit for $400,000 (reportedly netting $240,000) intending to use the money to hire defence lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting.  Had Steven received the $425,000 from the state he would not have had to settle his lawsuit.

02/15/06 – Teresa Halbach’s family files a wrongful death suit against Steven which could prevent him from using the money from his settlement to hire lawyers.  Because the settlement money never actually touched Steven’s hands, it was out of reach of the wrongful death suit.

02/06 – Dean and Jerry tour the Avery Salvage Yard and their investigator Pete Baetz interviews locals.  They begin to gather evidence that supports Steven’s claim of being framed.

Making A Murderer timeline

02/27/06 – Steven’s fiancé, Jodi, has been in jail for a DUI since two months before Teresa’s disappearance.  Since Steven’s arrest, Mark Wiegert has been visiting her in jail and pressuring her to turn against Steven.  Two days after she files an official request not to meet with investigators anymore, Mark Wiegert and Tom Fassbender pick up Steven’s 16-year-old learning-disabled nephew, Brendan Dassey, from school and begin interrogating him.  Brendan is Steven’s partial alibi for October 31, 2005, the night in question.

03/01/06 – After interrogating Brendan multiple times without a parent or lawyer present, investigators announce they have a confession.  Brendan is arrested.  When news of Brendan’s confession breaks, Steven’s brother Chuck no longer believes in Steven’s innocence. The public turns against Steven.

03/02/06 – Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz holds a televised press conference outlining the criminal complaint he filed against Brendan charging him with intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse, sexual assault, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.

03/03/06 – At Brendan’s initial court appearance, his court-appointed lawyer tells Judge Fox that Brendan only committed the crime because his uncle Steven told him to. The lawyer waives Brendan’s right to a preliminary hearing, ensuring that Brendan will be held over for trial.  Then, on the 5-o’clock news, it is reported that the lawyer is withdrawing from the case because he has learned that he is a relative of Teresa.

03/06 – Brendan’s replacement attorney, Len Kachinsky, talks to the press about his hopes to negotiate a plea deal for his client.  Charged aaadult and facing mandatory life in prison, Brendan is offered a deal if he agrees to testify against Steven.

03/17/06 – Judge Willis grants the State’s motion to file aAmended Criminal Complaint, allowing the State to file three additional changes against Steven – sexual assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

05/06 – Brendan refuses the plea deal offer and takes a polygraph.

Making A Murderer timeline

05/12/06 – Brendan’s defence investigator falsely tells him he failed the polygraph and pressures him to come up with another version of the confession that better fits the evidence.  His lawyer sets up another interrogation with Wiegert and Fassbender.

05/13/06 – Wiegert and Fassbender interrogate Brendan alone (Len is not on site and his defence investigator is watching from another room).  At the end of Brendan’s new interrogation, during which he offers yet another version of events, Wiegert and Fassbender suggest to Brendan that he call his mom and tell her that he and Steven did commit the crime.  Brendan calls her right after that and the State uses that phone call at his trial, but the jury is not allowed to see the 5/13 interrogation and thus don’t see the investigators suggesting that Brendan call his mother.

05/26/06 – Brendan tries to fire his attorney, Len, but when Judge Fox questions him about his reason, Brendan’s limited I.Q. prevents him from explaining what has happened.  Len tells Judge Fox that Steven is behind the “manoeuvre.”  Judge Fox denies Brendan’s request.

07/06 – Brendan writes a letter directly to Judge Fox proclaiming his innocence and outlining his activities on Halloween 2005.

When Steven and Jodi start to make plans to marry while he is in the county jail awaiting trial, Jodi is given a no-contact order for Steven.

08/06 – It is made public that Len set up the 5/13 interrogation with Wiegert and Fassbender and wasn’t present with his own client for it, and he is removed from the case.  Brendan is given a third lawyer (this time a pair: Mark Fremgen and Ray Edelstein).

Judge Willis (the Judge in Steven’s case) denies the defence lawyers’ Denny motion.  This ruling prevents the lawyers from pointing a finger at other viable suspects including both of Steven’s brothers, his brother-in-law, Scott Tadych, Brendan’s older brother Bobby and a local man who knows the Averys and who around the time of Teresa’s disappearance attacked his girlfriend with aaxe. Judge Willis rules that the only person the defence can point finger at is Brendan.

11/06 – Wisconsin voters pass the death penalty referendum, but later the bill is vetoed by Governor Doyle.

12/14/06 – Jerry Buting, the defence investigator, Pete Baetz, Mark Wiegert and Norm Gahn examine a vial of Steven’s blood in his 1985 case file, which was kept in a cardboard box in the Manitowoc County Clerk of Court’s office.  The seal has been cut and the vial appears to have been tampered with. Lieutenant Lenk was the evidence custodian and his signature is on the 2002 evidence transmittal form when evidence was requested by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, indicating that he would have known about the blood vial.

Making A Murderer timeline

01/29/07 – Judge Willis grants the State’s motion to dismiss the sexual assault and kidnapping charges.

02/07 – The state asks the FBI to develop a way to test the blood in Teresa’s car to see if the preservative EDTA is present (the absence of EDTA would indicate that the blood in her car came from a test-tube vial).  The FBI says it will take 6 months to develop a test because such a test doesn’t exist.

As Jerry and Dean review hundreds of prospective juror questionnaires, they reveal that only one person believes that Steven might be innocent.  They end up with a panel of jurors that includes two people with ties to the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department and the Manitowoc Clerk of Court’s office.

02/07 to 03/07 (Steven’s 5-week Trial) – During his cross examination of Sergeant Andrew Colborn, Dean plays asheriff’s department dispatch call of Colborn calling in Teresa’s license plates before the car was found, possibly linking Colborn to the planting of the vehicle on the salvage yard.

When a police sign-in log to the salvage yard is uncovered and Lieutenant James Lenk’s name is only signed out but not signed in on the first day of the search (the day the car was found) Lenk places his arrival time 4 hours earlier than he stated in prior testimony, now claiming he arrived at the salvage yard before the log was started.

At trial it comes out that the week after Judge Willis denied the Defense’s motion for Fair Forensic Testing claiming it would increase the risk of contamination to have a defence representative present, the DNA analyst, Sherry Culhane, is teaching other analysts during one of the most important tests in the case and contaminates the test.

For the first time in her career, Sherry Culhane gets permission to deviate from protocol in order to make a call and include someone from a test that was contaminated.  This allows her to testify that Teresa’s DNA was found on a bullet fragment in Steven’s garage. This is the only piece of evidence placing Teresa in Steven’s trailer or garage.

Some of Teresa’s bones found in a burn barrel behind his sister’s house next door are burned to the same degree as the bones in Steven’s burn pit. The defence argues this suggests the body was burned elsewhere and moved to Steven’s burn pit and argues there is no way that Steven would do that.

At trial, it comes out that the Manitowoc County Coroner, Debra Kakatsch, was kept out of the case.

The key to Teresa’s vehicle that was found in Steven’s bedroom has none of Teresa’s DNA on it, only Steven’s.

There is no blood or DNA from Teresa Halbach found in Steven’s trailer or garage (except the one contaminated bullet fragment) where she was allegedly sexually assaulted, stabbed and shot.

Making A Murderer timeline

Lieutenant James Lenk was at the scene when the bullet fragment was collected by his subordinate, Detective Dave Remiker.  These are MCSD officers who are not supposed to be part of the investigation.

Someone who knew Teresa’s password went into her voicemail after she went missing and erased some of her messages.

Brendan’s older brother Bobby and his stepfather, Scott, are possible suspects.  They both place themselves on or near the salvage yard when Teresa was last seen. They are each other’s alibi. After the murder, Scott allegedly tried to sell Bobby’s .22 rifle (the same make and model as the alleged murder weapon) at work, and coworkers report that when he heard there had been aarrest in the case he acted nervously.

Teresa’s roommate, Scott Bloedorn, her ex-boyfriend, Ryan Hillegas, and her brother Mike were never treated as potential suspects (never questioned alone, never asked for alibis, etc.).  Scott and Ryan were signed into the Avery property the day that Teresa’s key was found.

During trial, the state goes back to the FBI, and within two weeks the FBI develops an EDTA test.  The test can only determine the presence, not the absence of EDTA.  Nevertheless, the FBI analyst testifies that there is no EDTA in the bloodstains in Teresa’s car and the blood found could not have come from the vial. In addition, he testifies that even though he didn’t test three other stains there is no EDTA present in those stains either.

03/08/07 – The State rests its case.

03/12/07 – Judge Willis grants the defence motion to dismiss the false imprisonment charge, the only remaining of the three charges that were added after Brendan’s statements.

03/15-18/07 – When the jury takes their initial vote it is 7 not guilty, 2 undecided and 3 guilty, including the two jurors with ties to Manitowoc law enforcement.  Three days later the verdict is guilty of first degree intentional homicide and felon in possession of a firearm and not guilty of mutilating a corpse.  First degree homicide carries a mandatory life sentence.

Making A Murderer timeline

04/07 (Brendan’s 9–day trial) – Two of Steven’s jurors attend Brendan’s trial because as one of them says they have lingering questions. The State omits portions of Brendan’s 3/1 interrogation when they play it for the jury,  and Judge Fox does not allow Brendan’s lawyers to play omitted sections that contain arguably favourable statements by Brendan.

The State argues different crimes and different crime scenes at Steven and Brendan’s trials so Steven and Brendan end up convicted of different crimes.

06/01/07 – Judge Willis sentences Steven to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

08/02/07 – Judge Fox sentences 17-year-old Brendan to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 2048.

09/28/09 – Steven attends his post-conviction Motion Hearing in front of Judge Patrick Willis, the same judge who presided over Steven’s trial.  At this point, Steven is represented by public defenders, Suzanne Hagopian and Martha Askins, who present arguments for a new trial.

01/15-22/10 – Brendan’s post-conviction team, led by Chicago-based Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin and Wisconsin-based lawyer Robert Dvorak, argue on Brendan’s behalf aa 5-day post-conviction Motion Hearing in front of Judge Fox.  They argue that Brendan had ineffective assistance of counsel and that Dassey is entitled to a new trial in which his statements are suppressed or alternatively a new suppression hearing.

01/25/10 – Judge Willis denies Steven’s motion for a new trial.

12/13/10 – Judge Fox denies Brendan’s motion for a new trial.

2010 – Three years after the convictions, the special prosecutor Ken Kratz makes national news as the “Sexting DA.” He is accused of harassing a domestic violence victim whose boyfriend Kratz was prosecuting. Other women come forward and accuse Kratz of misconduct.

Making A Murderer timeline

08/24/11 – The Wisconsin Court of Appeals upholds Judge Willis’ decision denying Steven a new trial.

12/11 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court refuses to review Steven’s case.

01/30/13 – The Wisconsin Court of Appeals upholds Judge Fox’s decision denying Brendan a new trial.

08/01/13 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court refuses to review Brendan’s case.

03/12/14 – Steven is moved from Boscobel Prison to Waupun Correctional which is 120 miles closer to his family.

10/14 – Brendan Dassey’s post-conviction team, led by Chicago-based Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin, file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court citing constitutional violations, including a coerced confession.

That’s all the major events in the Making A Murderer timeline which has lead us to Part Two which airs on Netflix from 19 October.

Clip via Netflix