How do you plan for the unknown? The question can be interpreted to be rhetorical since planning for the unknown is by definition impossible, isn’t it? The best we can hope for is to plan for probable contingencies.
On October 31st, 2005, Teresa Halbach had a plan. She even wrote it down in her day planner. But sadly, there was no way she could have possibly anticipated the contingency that ended her life that day—a contingency named Steven Avery.
Now his lawyer Kathleen Zellner has a plan, too, to use Halbach’s day planner to try to prove that someone else killed her.
Unfortunately for Zellner, though, you know that old saying about the best laid plans...
I’m Dan O’Donnell and this is Rebutting a Murderer.
"After we filed our petition, we got a call from a witness who said, 'I've been bothered about something for a long time and I felt like I should call you,'" Zellner says. "I called him back and he said, 'I grew up in Manitowoc, I was in Barb Janda's class in school, and worked there for many years, knew a lot of the Manitowoc City Police,' and he said, 'I was a truck driver and on November 3rd , I was driving on 147 and I saw Teresa Halbach's car. This was two days before they find the car on the Avery property."
That new witness is named Kevin Rahmlow, and what he tells Zellner—only after watching “Making a Murderer’s” first season, naturally—is stunning.
"He said, 'I noticed it, I looked over, it was nose in, it was pointed west, it was a teal-green color, and it was a RAV," Zellner adds. "So then he said, 'The next day, on the 4th, I stopped at the Cenex station in Mishicot.' He said, 'I walk up to the door of the gas station and on the right window, there's a poster, and it's got a picture that looks like a high school picture of Teresa Halbach, and under it, it's got the vehicle I had seen down there by that tree.'
"And he said, 'So I went inside, got whatever I was getting, and in walks a Manitowoc officer. And I said to him, 'See that vehicle there? It's right down the road,'" Zellner relays. "So, I thought, well, that's pretty big news because there's no police report about it written up. So, this is another huge, huge Brady violation."
It would be, if it weren’t so painfully obvious that Rahmlow is either lying or just doesn’t remember what he really saw on November 3rd and 4th of 2005—roughly 11 years before he contacted Kathleen Zellner.
After watching “Making a Murderer” and suddenly remembering that he saw Halbach’s SUV, he also suddenly remembered that the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s deputy he talked to was Andrew Colborn—who the show turned into a villain for supposedly helping to plant the evidence that convicted Avery.
Rahmlow is clear: He talked to Andrew Colborn, who was in uniform at the Cenex station on November 4th, 2005. The only problem with this story? Andrew Colborn wasn’t working on November 4th, 2005.
So why was Rahmlow so sure that he recognized Andrew Colborn? He probably did...from when Colborn arrested him for drunk driving in 2006.
"We got the witness to come in from Michigan," Zellner says. "We went to that property, and we realized, which he didn't realize, that Scott Tadych's trailer was three tenths of a mile from that spot, on the other side of the road. So, that's interesting, that it was that close to the property.
"Then we did more research, and we got the deed for the house that was close to where the car was ditched. And guess who bought the house fairly soon after the murder? Scott Tadych, who married Brendan Dassey's mother. So, they're residing right close to where the car was ditched."
Based on the 11 year-old memories from a witness who has already been proven to have either lied or been mistaken about the sheriff’s deputy he talked to, Zellner has constructed a new conspiracy—that Brendan Dassey’s brother Bobby and stepfather Scott Tadych actually killed Halbach and watched with glee as the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department pinned the murder on Steven Avery.
"We're gonna figure out whether what we've got here is a murder that was committed by one or two people, let's say, hypothetically, Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych," says Zellner. "A car moved a couple of times and ditched close to Scott's house. Then we've got another bit of illegality going on where the police find the car and decide to move it onto the Avery property. That's the way the killers benefited from the cops wanting to frame Steven Avery instead of wanting to solve it. And, really, that it's Colborn is amazing to me. Unbelievable!"
Of course, it’s not Colborn. Because Colborn wasn’t working that day. Kevin Rahmlow never talked to him that day.
This is most likely why in a second motion for a new trial that Zellner filed after talking with Rahmlow, she barely mentions his statement at all. If it really was the evidence of Andrew Colborn driving Halbach’s SUV into the Avery scrapyard that she claims it to be in “Making a Murderer,” why not present some evidence to suggest that? Why just mention Rahmlow’s statement almost in passing?
Because when she filed the motion, Zellner obviously knew that Rahmlow wasn’t nearly the credible witness that “Making a Murderer” asserts that he must be.
"Then we discover, on Ryan Hillegas' phone records on November 4th, there are a series of calls that are made to him with no caller ID," Zellner asserts. "Which, in talking to the phone company, they thought it was most likely law enforcement. They're every couple of minutes, and there's 22 of them. And they end right around 7:25, which is when Chuck Avery calls Steven Avery and says that he sees headlights down in the pit behind his house.
"We think what happened is that Ryan Hillegas is there, possibly with law enforcement when the car is moved, and he's dropping calls as they're trying to direct him. Because that's what happened to us in the quarry, the calls would drop. They had to have probable cause to get on the property. So, it's clear it's all contrived to have Ryan Hillegas involved and knowing where the car is, and letting Pam Sturm know where the car is, and then, bingo, when they've got the car, they've got probable cause. Then they've got all those search warrants, and they can go into Steven's residence six, seven times, the garage, all of that. It just opened the whole thing up."
I’m sure it did, but there is still no evidence that there was a car there except for the word of...Steven Avery’s brother. He saw headlights. Not a RAV 4, not a Manitowoc Sheriff’s Deputy driving a RAV 4 while coordinating evidence planting with Ryan Hillegas. Headlights.
From just two headlights, Zellner is amazingly able to craft that entire narrative—a narrative that she never argues in front of a judge.
The motion she files after her first request for a new trial is flatly denied is focused not on this new conspiracy, but rather on the notion that prosecutors didn’t share evidence that Bobby Dassey was looking at violent pornography on his computer. Only they did. Zellner’s second motion was denied, too.
"Investigator Fassbender documented in a police report that Kelly Pitzen, Teresa's best friend, told him that Ryan Hillegas had Teresa's day planner when they all met at Teresa's residence on November 3rd. So, we started looking at Teresa's day planner."
And this is where the plot, at least according to Kathleen Zellner, thickens.
"So, we started looking at Teresa's day planner," she explains. "It's got some writing on it that caught our attention. So, we've got Teresa's new phone records, and we notice that Denise Coakley has talked to Teresa at around 11:30 on the 31st and said, 'I'd like to set up an appointment with you on Tuesday, November the 1st at noon.' And Denise said, 'When I talked to Teresa, she said, 'Oh, I'm driving. Let me pull over and jot this down.'
"So, Teresa pulls over, and she jots down 'Denise, noon' on November 1st. OK? So, she's in her car."
Zellner is trying to establish that Halbach had the paper printout of her day planner with her and that she was in her car pretty much all day.
"Then we discover that Steve Speckman calls Teresa just about an hour after Denise's call, OK? So, it's around 12:45," adds Zellner. "And he tells her that he's got a couple of vehicles he wants her to photograph.So, Teresa jots down 'Steve" and 'Sheboygan' and then the vehicles and his phone number, and he confirms that she's driving in her car.
"It's now a quarter to one, OK? And so, just reconstructing the time frames in which she arrived at her next appointments, there isn't time for her to have gone all the way back to her house with the day planner, left it at her house, and then left again. The schedule's too tight for her to arrive at Schmitz."
This is not true at all because Zellner’s witness, Steve Speckman, was not telling the truth in his affidavit. He claimed that Teresa told him that she was driving around in Sheboygan when she was talking to him and that she pulled over in Sheboygan with the piece of paper from her day planner to write down the appointment.
Her cell phone records proved that she was nowhere near Sheboygan when she was talking to Steve Speckman.
Remember the cell phone “pings” that Zellner tried to use a few episodes ago to prove that Halbach left the Avery property? Halbach’s phone was pinging off of the same cell tower near her home (and nowhere near Sheboygan) from the night before her murder until just before 1:00 that afternoon.
Her day planner showed that her first appointment that day was in fact at 1:00 pm, so she was actually talking to Speckman while driving around near her home. She had plenty of time to drop off the piece of paper at her home and then get to her appointment.
At exactly 12:51 pm, her phone starts pinging off of a different cell phone tower, which suggests that she was driving a farther distance—say, to her first appointment at 1:00.
Speckman’s affidavit was false—either because he was deliberately lying or because he simply misremembered a conversation from more than a decade earlier.
Still, Zellner persists with undeniably false information to triumphantly claim that Hillegas must have gotten that day planner page from Halbach’s RAV 4 after she died.
"Scott Bloedorn said that he found the day planner at Teresa Halbach's residence and that it was from the Outlook program on the computer," Zellner says. "And it was before Teresa wrote on it when she was out on the road talking to Denise Coakley and Speckman, and drove to Schmitz.
"So, she's at the Schmitz house, and then she goes to the Zipperers', and then she goes on to the Averys'. Her day planner is in the car with her because she never goes back home. There isn't time. So, how does Ryan Hillegas get this piece of paper unless he has access to Teresa's car after she's been to the Averys'?"
Spoiler alert: He didn’t. He got the day planner page from her desk in her home, right where she had left it. He gave it to investigators after a number of Halbach’s friends had gathered there when they realized she was missing.
"So if you talk about a Denny link to the crime, when you've got a document that you can show was in the victim's car at the time of the murder and is in the possession of a witness, that's about as good a link as you could get to the crime," Zellner insists.
Only it’s not a link at all because Halbach didn’t have the paper with her. She dropped it off at home and had plenty of time to get out to her first appointment of the afternoon and then head to the Avery property.
Besides, why would she need to carry that piece of paper with her to remember her schedule when she had a Palm Pilot?
And she most certainly did have that Palm Pilot with her. Its charred remains were found in Steven Avery’s burn barrel.
As Brendan Dassey’s attorney Laura Nirider argues before the full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Zellner launches into a new theory about Brendan’s brother Bobby—that he and Scott Tadych are the real killers. What evidence does she have to prove this? Well, none, but she imagines a detailed scenario based on her unproven claim that Halbach left the Avery property after taking pictures of Barb Janda’s van for Steven Avery.
"I want to go through what I think is the most important evidence in the case, which is the sequencing of who was doing what when Teresa came on the property," says Zellner. "And so, what I want to do is I want to reconstruct that whole sequence of events to determine if Bobby Dassey actually left the property within a minute or two of Teresa and followed her when she turned left and met up with his soon-to-be stepfather, Scott Tadych, and they are somehow involved in the murder."
Wow. I mean just, wow. There is no evidence to back any of this up. None at all. Zellner is tying two men to a crime based on absolutely zero evidence. So naturally she does an experiment to see if Bobby Dassey could have driven fast enough to catch up to Halbach’s car, flag her down, kill her with Scott Tadych’s involvement somehow, and then dispose of her body.
"Bobby was probably only 30 seconds behind her. So, we wanted to see how long it would take him to catch up with her if she was just driving normal speed and he was going over the speed limit."
And wouldn’t you know it? Her experiment shows that yes, it was certainly possible.
"Could he catch her before they got to Q Road? And he did."
I honestly don’t even know what to say to this. There is just no evidence to suggest that any of this happened except for Zellner saying that it happened. It’s literally nothing more than a hypothetical that she created out of thin air.
But this, it seems, is her new plan—to show that Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych are the real killers, even though there has never been a single shred of evidence backing this theory.
That’s Zellner’s plan, though, and you know what they say about the best laid plans...