LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As the 10-episode series of “Making a Murderer” begins, viewers learn that Steven Avery was exonerated in 2003 after he spent 18 years in prison for the sexual assault and attempted murder of a Manitowoc County woman, a crime he never committed.
While filing a $36 million civil lawsuit against county and city officials in Wisconsin, Avery quickly found himself behind bars a second time.
In October 2005, Teresa Halbach, 25, disappeared after visiting Avery’s family owned salvage yard to photograph a vehicle for her employer, Autotrader magazine.
During an area search of the property, deputies found small bone fragments in a fire pit behind Avery’s trailer along with Halbach’s dark green Toyota RAV4, which was partially hidden by branches and had blood smears inside that contained Avery’s DNA.
Further investigation turned up Halbach’s car keys inside of Avery’s bedroom and a bullet fragment containing her DNA in the garage.
As evidence mounted against Avery in the case, he was arrested as the prime suspect. Halbach’s manor of death was ruled as homicidal violence.
During a questionable police interrogation, then-16-year-old Brendan Dassey explained that he went over to his uncle’s neighboring trailer after school on Halloween and found Halbach shackled to the bed while naked.
Dassey confessed that he sexually assaulted Halbach and later used a butcher knife to slash her throat and stab her in the abdomen under his uncle’s instruction.
The pair then ultimately disposed of Halbach’s remains in the burn pit at the salvage yard behind the trailer.
Shortly after Dassey’s arrest, prosecutor Ken Kratz detailed the young accomplice’s grisly account of Halbach’s rape, torture and murder during a televised news conference.
Avery’s trial was held in Calumet County. For the first 2 1/2 months, he was represented by two assistant state public defenders.
After settling his civil lawsuit, Avery hired private counsel to represent him — defense attorney Dean Strang and co-counsel Jerry Buting — to construct a theory that he was being framed by local police.
Avery’s murder trial went on for six weeks. Jurors were presented with nearly 240 hours of evidence, some of which that suggested Manitowoc County officials had a conflict of interest participating in the investigation of Halbach’s murder.
In their closing argument, prosecutors claimed that Avery fatally shot Halbach in his garage and used her vehicle to transport the body to another location before ultimately disposing of her remains in the fire pit. In 2007, Avery was sentenced to life in prison without parole. In a separate trial, Dassey was sentenced to life in prison with parole in 2048.
At this time, both men continue to fight their convictions from jail.
The case turned out to be one of the most high-profile murder trials in Wisconsin history.