Netflix is turning thousands of viewers into detectives after premiering its new true crime series in December. Fans of Making a Murderer are reading Steven Avery's trial transcripts online, they're trying to track down Teresa Halbach's family, and they're coming up with oh-so-many theories about who could've killed Halbach if it wasn't Avery. The four most legitimate Making a Murderer theories are necessary for the show's serious fans.
First, some background. Avery was convicted of sexual assault at 23 but was exonerated 18 years later with DNA evidence, according to Slate. Shortly after his release, he prepared to sue Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. But, in 2004, when a photographer named Teresa Halbach was found dead, Avery ended up back in prison with a life sentence. His nephew, Brendan Dassey, was also imprisoned for assisting Avery. Though the police used physical evidence to tie Avery to the murder, Avery insisted he did not commit the murder. Questions emerged regarding whether he was framed in retaliation for his lawsuit against the county, a claim that officials have not only always denied, but that also has never been sufficiently proven.
Since all 10 episodes premiered at one time on Netflix, aspiring investigators could binge watch the series and immediately start sharing their own theories. In "How Making a Murderer Turned Us All into Conspiracy Theorists," Vanity Fair writer Scott Beggs argued that the show's appeal is in its divisiveness. Not only does the show allow for fans to really dig into the material, but it basically nudges viewers toward picking a side. That is, in part, what drove thousands to sign petitions requesting a pardon for Avery.
It also led to an abundance of theories shared on the internet for mutual dissection. Here are four that stand out:
Was Avery Framed?
This is probably the most popular theory. CBS News reported that Avery pursued a $36 million wrongful conviction lawsuit following his release from prison after being convicted for a sexual assault he didn't commit. Some theorists believe it's possible that local law enforcement framed Avery for Halbach's murder as retribution for his lawsuit. When asked about the common theory that the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department planted evidence to help convict Avery or framed Avery in the murder of Teresa Halbach, Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann told Romper:
Obviously that’s false. You get that feeling from the movie that there’s a corrupt Sheriff's office up in Manitowoc County, which is the wrong way to paint the case in the movie. There’s a lot of evidence in this case that the film or movie does not show. I could go on and on about specific pieces of evidence that weren’t depicted in the film. The film basically took the script that the defense used in Steven Avery’s case. Avery had a good defense team, but the jury didn’t buy it, and Avery was convicted of this horrific crime. It looks to me — because I ended up watching this documentary — that it was produced for entertainment purposes. From the beginning, in episode one, Avery talks about [the incident with] that cat. ... He says he waved it over the fire and it was the family cat and 'I did some stupid things when i was young.' But he was 20 years old, and he didn’t just wave it over the fire — he doused it in gas and oil, and you learn that in episode one. You have this film that shows three or four hours of the courtroom [proceedings] — and I understand when you make a movie you can’t put it all in there — but the jury saw nearly six weeks of testimony and a lot of that evidence was left out of the documentary.
Ken Kratz, former Calumet County district attorney, said the accusation was "irresponsible." But in an interview with TIME, one of the creators (Laura Ricciardi) said a juror told them that it was possible Avery had indeed been framed:
We naturally asked, if you believed that why did you vote the way you did? And this person told us that it was a decision about self-preservation. The person lived in the county, feared for their safety, and also said, “If they could frame Steven Avery, they could do it to me.”
The Manitowoc Police Department adamantly denies any framing.
Was It "The German"?
This may feel like a stretch, but some people believe a man called "The German" killed Halbach. According to POPSUGAR, this theory originated out of a 2009 blog post by a neighbor of the Avery family. Apparently, "The German" told his wife that he'd had an unpleasant encounter with a female photographer at an auto salvage yard. He appeared to be scratched, and after seeing a missing persons flyer for Halbach, said, "She's dead." Though he was reportedly arrested when his wife contacted the Sheriff's Department, "The German" wasn't charged with murder. Instead, his wife apparently made a grisly discovery, according to POPSUGAR:
In November 2005, the same woman discovered a number of suspicious items in German's home: bloody women's panties, fresh bones, a can of lighter fluid with bloody fingerprints, a mason's hammer covered in dark red flecks, graphic pornographic magazines, and surgical gloves.
After his wife contacted the Sheriff's Department again, they reportedly did arrest "The German" for a distressing episode of erratic behavior but dismissed the idea that he was connected to Halbach's murder.
It Was All A Government Conspiracy
If Avery's arrest and conviction wasn't retaliation for the lawsuit, there are those who believe it was all arranged so that the government could acquire his land. According to Fusion, Avery's property includes a "gravel pit" that may be a valuable mining resource. Some believe that higher-ups may have wanted the land for its value and arranged for Avery to be framed. The Manitowoc Police Department denies any claims of wrongdoing by authorities.
Of course, this barely begins to cover all of the theories out there. From the solid to the hard-to-believe, ideas aren't difficult to discover on the Internet. But with an entire world of amateur sleuths working on Avery's case, it's completely possible that a new explanation for his conviction could emerge.
Images: Making a Murderer/Netflix (2)