‘Making a Murderer’ Update on ‘Dateline’: Five Revelations About Steven Avery’s Case

Unless you lived under a rock last year (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you heard about Netflix’s hit docuseries Making a Murderer, which told the story of Steven A. Avery and nephew Brendan Dassey, who were both found guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach. With Dateline‘s Friday, February 17, episode revisiting the case, here’s a quick refresh of the facts: Avery was wrongly convicted of rape, finally released and was about to potentially collect millions of dollars from a lawsuit he filed after getting out of prison against Manitowoc County. While all of that was pending, a photographer who worked for Autotrader magazine (Halbach) was called to Avery’s residence (which was also his place of work) for an assignment — and never seen again until her bones were found. 

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An investigation began that quickly narrowed in on Avery and his nephew, and evidence began to mount against them. Avery’s blood was found in Halbach’s car. Her car key was found in his trailer. And Dassey gave a statement to police detailing how they brutally raped, tortured and killed the 25-year-old woman. The docuseries raised questions about the investigation, causing some people to believe the two men had been wrongly convicted. On February 17, Dateline aired “Return to Manitowoc County,” which featured new interviews with investigator Tom Fassbender, former district attorney Ken Kratz and Dassey’s former defense attorney, Len Kachinsky. While much of the program recapped the case, there were some new bits of information here and there. Here are the five biggest moments from special.

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1. Tom Fassbender does not believe he or any of the police did anything wrong while investigating.

“Absolutely not,” Fassbender said when asked if he had a vendetta against Avery, noting that he didn’t even know who Avery was at the time. “The people that were there that I worked with from Manitowoc County were hardworking — they only wanted to do this investigation the right way.”  Asked specifically about the key found in Avery’s trailer on the team’s seventh search of the space, Fassbender said there was no way it was planted, and argued it wasn’t found during the previous six searches because it was located in a small bookcase that hadn’t been searched thoroughly. 

He also insisted Avery’s blood in Halbach’s car was not planted. (The docuseries made a big deal about the fact that the police department had Avery’s blood in a vial and that it was suspicious since the vial had a small puncture on its top. Fassbender said small punctures were normal on those types of vials.) In a nutshell, he the defense’s allegation that the police planted evidence was “absurd.”

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2. Tom Fassbender revealed he had “mixed emotions” when he learned that Dassey was being released.

Last August, a judge overturned the ruling on Dassey, arguing that Fassbender’s interrogation had not followed the rules and had taken advantage of a young man with learning disabilities. While Fassbender respected the authority of the judge, he believed Dassey “knew right from wrong” and was definitely involved in Halbach’s death. He said he had “mixed emotions” when he heard the news and reiterated that they had done “everything above board.”

3. Len Kachinsky admitted he made some mistakes.

To say that Kachinsky, the defense attorney for Dassey, came across as a poor lawyer in the docuseries would be the understatement of the century. He looked incompetent at best and as if he were trying to get his client convicted at worst. In particular, during the “Return to Manitowoc” special, he was asked about his decision to let Dassey, a disabled teenager, be questioned by police without his attorney present, and Kachinsky said that wasn’t a good choice. (No kidding.) “That was really a mistake,” he said with a shrug, though he did argue that none of his mistakes affected the outcome of the case.

Steven Avery in Netflix's documentary "Making A Murderer"
Steven Avery in Netflix’s docuseries ‘Making a Murderer.’ Netflix

4.  Steven Avery had a history of alleged violence against women.

Making a Murderer didn’t spent much time on Avery’s reputation around town in terms of his dealings with the fairer sex. Specifically, it didn’t highlight the fact that his ex-fiancée told police Avery had physically abused her, or that a teenage girl had accused him of rape. “He has no remorse for his behavior,” Kratz said. “He feels incredibly entitled.”

5. Ken Kratz has a new girlfriend.

Kratz, the district attorney who led much of the case against Avery, had his own mini-scandal after the case closed. He was caught sending sexually charged text messages to a woman who was the victim of domestic violence. While he is no longer the district attorney of Manitowoc County, he does have a book out telling his version of events in the case, and he has a new girlfriend by his side. Meanwhile, attorney Kathleen Zellner has taken on Avery’s case and is determined to get him set free, citing new evidence (though she hasn’t specified what that is, exactly).

Tell Us: What do you make of the latest special about Avery?

Dateline airs on NBC Fridays at 9 p.m. ET.

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