In what the Post-Crescent called a “daring and risky legal maneuver,” Steven Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, filed a 1,250 motion at the Manitowoc County Court last week, requesting a new trial for her client. Part of the reason Zellner is requesting a new trial for Avery is that she feels that she knows who the real killer is.
According to the motion, Zellner pointed to Ryan Hillegas as the person who likely murdered Teresa Halbach in 2005. Halbach, a freelance photographer, was supposedly last seen on Steven Avery’s property on Halloween, taking photos of a van for sale. Avery, the centerpiece of the popular Netflix docu-series, Making a Murderer, is currently serving a life sentence for Halbach’s murder. Did the prosecution get it wrong? According to Zellner, yes. She listed a number of reason why Hillegas, who dated Halbach on and off for five years, is most likely the true culprit.
The motion points out that Hillegas admitted he saw Halbach on October 30, 2005. He’s never offered an alibi that could potentially clear him, but according to the motion and court transcripts, he may not have ever been asked to provide one.
Court transcript Q&A of prosecuting attorney, Ken Kratz, who questioned Hillegas about his alibi:
Q. And during this entire missing person period,
20 that is, before the RAV4 was found, did the
21 police ever ask you for any kind of alibi for
22 October 31st?
23 A. No.
24 Q. They never asked your whereabouts whatsoever?
25 A. I don’t believe so.
1 Q. Okay. Anybody, point blank, ever ask you, if you
2 had any knowledge about her disappearance, or
3 were involved in it?
4 A. I don’t know if they did it like that, like they
5 were accusing me but, of course, people asked me
6 if I had talked to her, or knew anything. And
7 that’s why I was there to help.
Volunteering False Information
The motion also accuses of Hillegas of volunteering wrong information about Halbach’s vehicle without being asked. For instance, he “appears to have misled police when he told them that Ms. Halbach had damaged the front driver’s side of her vehicle months before her disappearance, had filed an insurance claim for that damage and had taken the cash payout without repairing the vehicle,” retired FBI agent, Gregg McCrary, wrote.
Further, Hillegas initially gave authorities a fake name and tried to minimize the seriousness of his previous relationship with Halbach.
“On at least one occasion,” McCrary said, “Mr. Hillegas had misidentified himself as Mr. Kilgus to gain access to the Avery property. Regardless, the authorities allowed Mr. Hillegas multiple entries to the Avery property while it was under police control.”
Halbach’s Deleted Voicemails
Hillegas admitted that he gained access to Halbach’s cellphone account online by guessing her password. He claimed he wanted to print out her phone records. According to expert testimony during Avery’s trial, by Mr. Zimmerman, a Cingular wireless network engineer, several of Halbach’s voicemail messages were likely deleted.
According to Zellner, the killer deleted messages to delay family and friends from worrying about her and calling the police, which would have likely happened sooner if Halbach, who constantly checked her phone, had a voicemail full of unheard messages. Although Hillegas never admitted to deleting voicemail messages, he did have access to her phone’s password.
“217. The killer wanted as much time as possible before the people close to Ms. Halbach realized she was gone. As she received more and more phone calls, her voice mailbox became full, something uncharacteristic of Ms. Halbach. The killer, who knew the password to her voice mailbox, deleted several of Ms. Halbach’s voice messages to buy himself time before Teresa’s family and friends realized that she was missing and begansearching for her. (Affidavit of Gregg McCrary, P-C Group Exhibit 42, 122).”
Reportedly, Hillegas physically and emotionally abused Halbach during their five-year relationship. When she called it off, he was upset and angry and wanted to stay with her, at least according to the motion.
“216. Before Ms . Halbach ‘ s murder, the killer most likely became aware that she was sexually involved with a married man and a second male who was a very close friend of the killer’ s. (11 /4/05 CCSD Interview of Bradley Czech (“Mr. Czech”) (“Bradley Czech Interview”), attached and incorporated herein as P-C Exhibit 43) (Affidavit of Gregg McCrary, P-C Group Exhibit 42, 117).”
Ryan Hillegas apparently had scratches on the top part of his hand right around the time he was searching for Halbach. He was never questioned about the scratches and there is still debate as to whether the scratches really existed, given the that images of his hand during the documentary are inconclusive.
“It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty in the field of forensic pathology, that Mr. Hillegas’ right hand … appears discolored … the abrasions I observed on the back of Mr. Hillegas’ left hand are consistent with scratches inflicted by fingernails,” said pathologist, Dr. Larry Blum.
Others, such as Manitowoc Assistant DA, Michael Griesbach, think the Zellner’s motion is “reckless,” and doesn’t provide any credible evidence that points to Hillegas as the killer.
“It’s alarming that in the face of such overwhelming evidence of Mr. Avery’s guilt, Ms. Zellner, who has devoted her career to righting wrongful convictions, has so recklessly accused the victim’s former boyfriend without a shred of legitimate evidence backing her claim and with no regard for the harm she has caused.”
Zellner said that it’s not her job to prove Hillegas killed Halbach, nor it is her job to convict him. She stressed that her job was to show Hillegas had motive and opportunity.
“Rather, we are trying to show Hillegas had motive, opportunity and a connection to the crime that meets the Denny (third-party suspect) standard. The jury should have been presented with this evidence. It may have created a reasonable doubt about Steven’s guilt.”
Check back with Crime Online for additional information on the Steven Avery case.
[Feature Photo: Netflix/Screenshot]