Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Teresa Halbach

The Fire Pit

Investigators searched Steven Avery's mobile home and found a "dried red substance which appeared to be blood" on the bathroom floor near the washer and dryer."  They also found "pornographic material" and "items of restraint," including leg irons and handcuffs. 

Deputy Dan Kucharski continued the search the next day and discovered two firearms in Avery's bedroom—a .22 semi-automatic rifle and a .50 black-powder muzzleloader.  The name "Steve" written on masking tape was attached to the muzzleloader.  Officers searched a detached garage on the Avery property and discovered "eleven spent .22 caliber long rifle shell casings on the floor."

The search continued for a third day, and Deputy Kucharski found a Toyota ignition key in Avery's bedroom.  The key was transported to the state crime lab and tested on Teresa Halbach's car.  A lab technician was able to start the engine with the key.  By this time technicians had identified traces of human blood on the ignition area of the vehicle as well as in the rear cargo space.

On November 8, the fourth day of searching, officers found two crumpled Wisconsin license plates inside a junked vehicle on the Avery property.  The plate number, SWH582, was registered to Teresa Halbach's 1999 Toyota Rav 4.  Officers also found a "burn barrel" containing the remnants of burned clothing, a partially burned shovel, a cell phone, and a camera.  Upon inspecting a fire pit near to Steven Avery's home, officers found "bone fragments and teeth" as well as the "remnants of steel belts of tires."  They believed the tire belts might have been used as "fire accelerants." 

A forensic anthropologist examined the bone fragments and determined that they belonged to an "adult human female."  A second forensic anthropologist examined the fragments and came to the conclusion that the corpse had been mutilated.

Sherry L. Culhane, a DNA analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, tested blood samples found in various locations inside Teresa Halbach's car, including the driver's seat, ignition area, front passenger seat, and rear passenger door entrance.  Culhane found that the samples matched Steven Avery's DNA profile.  DNA material taken from the Toyota key found in Avery's bedroom also matched his profile.

DNA testing was performed on blood samples taken from the rear cargo area of the Toyota and from an empty can of Wild Cherry Pepsi found on the front console.  The two profiles matched, and Culhane believed that they belong to Teresa Halbach.   A partial DNA profile obtained from the teeth and bone fragments found in the fire pit matched in seven out of thirteen areas and were thus consistent with the profile worked up from the Pepsi can and the blood found in the cargo area.   As reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette, Culhane would later testify that the chances were "one in a billion" that the human tissue found in the fire pit did not belong to Teresa Halbach.

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