Just because you spent over 10 hours watching the true crime documentary Making A Murderer on Netflix, that doesn’t make you a hardcore fan. That designation is only truly deserved by the scores of obsessed people meticulously going over every transcript and photo from the Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey trials. Internet sleuthing gets a bad rap these days, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the dedication these people have when it comes to figuring out what really happened to murder victim Teresa Halbach.
The latest discovery from this group comes from an analysis of the bone fragments pulled from the fire pit prosecutors accuse Steven Avery of using to burn Halbach’s body. During his trial, they claimed his backyard bonfire burned so hot it obliterated her remains, leaving nothing but tiny bone fragment remains without any DNA left. But when fans took a closer look at the ‘human’ fragments collected, one stood out. Property tag 7955 included a bone that is clearly the carpometacarpus of a bird.
That brings us back to claims from the defense that Avery’s burn pit was regularly used to dispose of deer, rodents, and fowl remains from hunting. How many of the bone fragments collected and attributed to Halbach were just burnt animal remains? It also makes us wonder how a fire could be so powerful it reduced Halbach’s body to small flakes, yet this bird wing bone remained largely intact?
As with many of the key pieces of evidence in the Making A Murderer case, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the bones found in Steven Avery’s burn pit. A proper forensic grid was never set up, and material from the pit was simply shoveled into boxes and sifted through back at the labs. Record keeping and chain of command protocols were largely ignored by the forensic labs, and the defense in Steven Avery’s trial complained, “It is unclear whether some, all, or none of the fragments had been previously determined by the state’s forensic anthropologist to be human or not. In short, the defense has no way of knowing from this cryptic report what was sent to and examined by the FBI Lab.”
Steven Avery’s guilt was largely assumed by the public once news reports said Teresa Halbach’s remains were found in his back yard. But that claim, made so persuasively by prosecutor Ken Kratz during Avery’s trial, wasn’t backed up by much science. IDing the remains as Halbach’s was extremely difficult. The best the forensic labs could do was with one bit of tissue that had enough mitochondrial DNA for a test. But that test is supposed to give readings on 16 points of DNA in order to be usable. The lab could only get results on 7. Yet instead of reporting that as ‘inconclusive’, forensic scientist Sherry Culhane claimed the chances the mitochondrial DNA came from anyone other than Halbach was “one in a billion.” This statistic is simply wrong — Someone checked out a single small mitochondrial DNA database of 65,000 people and found 122 matches at 9 points.
So you’ve got a single fragment of bone that gave a test result with less than half the required matching points to prove Steven Avery burned Teresa Halbach’s body on his property. That’s not a lot of evidence. Forensics didn’t have much better luck in Steven Avery’s garage, where prosecutors claim Steven Avery executed Halbach with a hunting rifle. Not a single hint of Halbach’s blood was recovered from that crime scene, although a bullet found there in March (the initial investigation searches were conducted in November) was tested by Culhane, who found Teresa Halbach’s DNA on it. Interestingly enough, the DNA on the bullet was in the form of nucleated cells and not blood, just more ammunition for those who think evidence was planted by investigators.
The rabbit hole goes much deeper on the bones and DNA results, just another aspect of the Making A Murderer case that gets pretty iffy upon closer inspection. That’s one of the reasons people find the show so compelling, and why so many think season two of the documentary will feature Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey being cleared of killing Teresa Halbach. Avery’s lawyer Kathleen Zellner is filing her appeal at the end of August, and it’s guaranteed to blow the lid off this and many other inconsistencies in the case. She’s even said she intends to prove who Halbach’s real killer was as well. We’ll keep you in the know on any further updates on the case.