Netflix's Making a Murderer has made investigators out of its fans. The true-crime documentary series presents the purported problems that made Steven Avery's 2005 trial for the murder of Teresa Halbach seem less cut and dry than the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department would like people to think. As the show's title hints, many walked away from watching the series thinking Avery was framed for Halbach's murder (a claim that has yet to be substantiated), but who does Teresa Halbach's family think killed Teresa? They believe the documentary is exploiting her murder for entertainment and they definitely don't think Avery is innocent.
Some of Halbach's extended family told People that they believe Avery is guilty of murdering Halbach, and the show is making things worse for their family. “It’s terrible,” Halbach’s aunt, Kay Giordana, told People. Jeremy Fournier, Teresa's cousin-in-law agreed, according to People:
I can’t believe this came out. It is really unfortunate. It is so very one-sided. ... It seems like there are some shenanigans by the police in there from what I hear and read about, and I can see where people are getting their opinion, but they are only getting one side of the story.
The "shenanigans" Fournier is referring to is the theory the documentary and its fans have come to think might provide some justification for how Avery was convicted for Halbach's murder: Fans speculated that Avery was arrested in retaliation for a civil lawsuit he filed against the county for his wrongful imprisonment in the 1985 attempted rape of Penny Bernstein, a crime for which he served 18 years in prison. 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 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.
Still, many fans of the show are calling for a new trial for Avery, which, understandably, is shocking to the Halbach family. Giordana told people that fan reactions were very difficult for her to process:
I was very upset, but I know the right people know the truth. It is not even close to what really happened. Everybody has their own side of a story. That is the Avery family’s side of the story. I wouldn’t expect it to be different. They think he is innocent. I am not surprised. I am surprised that someone would put that together in that way and have it [be] one-sided.
And Halbach's immediate family released the following statement to an ABC affiliate in Green Bay in December:
Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of the death of our daughter and sister, Teresa, we are saddened to learn that individuals and corporations continue to create entertainment and to seek profit from our loss. We continue to hope that the story of Teresa’s life brings goodness to the world.
Although no one is quite sure what Making a Murderer could do for Avery or his case, family and friends close to Halbach have spoken out to ensure her life isn't lost in the short series. In another recent People article, family members shared their last memory of Halbach at her grandfather's 71st birthday party on Oct. 30, 2005 — the day before she went missing. Halbach's University of Wisconsin-Green Bay classmate Beth told People Halbach made her feel like she fit in:
She made you feel like you belonged just by her nature. She had a very adventurous spirit, and she made you want to come along with her.
Friend and former classmate Katie Uttech, who made Halbach her bridesmaid in her wedding in 2004, said Halbach was always very positive:
I don't ever remember her being mad about anything. She just had this positivity about herself. She didn't have a bad bone in her body. She just enjoyed life, she enjoyed new experiences."
It's important to remember that shows like Making a Muderer or the first season of Sarah Koenig's Serial are entertaining, but they are about real events that affected real people. Avery isn't the only one who deserves justice in this case, and that's something all fans should remember.
Image: Making a Murderer/Netflix (2)