The state alleged that Steven Avery burned the victim’s body in a huge bonfire behind his trailer and burned her personal effects (cell phone, camera and palm pilot) in a burn barrel in the front area of the home the evening of 10/31/05.
While reviewing all of the initial statements made by Steven Avery and the others who had been on the property that day, I noticed that not a single person mentioned a bonfire on October 31 – the day Teresa Halbach disappeared. The witness statements evolved considerably over time so that by the time Brendan Dassey was arrested everyone believed there was a bonfire and/or burn barrel fire on Halloween night.
Let’s examine the statements beginning with the early interviews. Steven Avery was interviewed by Detective O’Neill with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office on November 5 (the day Teresa’s RAV 4 was found) and again on November 6.
Steven Avery’s interview 11/6/05 @ 29:57:
Q: When’s the last time you burned?
A: Two weeks ago.
Q: What did you burn, just regular garbage?
A: Just garbage.
Steve Avery was interviewed again by Special Agent Fassbender on November 9, 2005, which was the day they arrested him on the weapon’s violation.
Blaine Dassey was interviewed on November 7, 2005 — two days after the RAV 4 had been found at which time the burned phone parts and some of the bones had already been found in the burn barrels near Steve Avery’s trailer and the Janda/Dassey residence. Note that Blaine got off the bus with Brendan Dassey at approximately 3:45 p.m. He had plans that evening to go trick-or-treating with a friend and the fact that it was Halloween made it more likely that he would remember a bonfire that evening.
Blaine was first asked about the burn barrels.
Then he was specifically asked about a bonfire.
And he further explained later in the interview that there was supposed to be a bonfire that Thursday but it was cancelled. This is important because Brendan Dassey’s statement about the bonfire was consistent with Blaine’s.
Trial testimony revealed that Blaine was interviewed by investigators again on November 11, November 15 and again on unknown dates. Between his initial interview and his trial testimony, Blaine’s statement about the bonfire changed. (Called by the state, day 12 p 52-107)
Later questioning . . .
Blaine admitted during defense cross examination that he did not mention anything about any fires in his initial interview with investigators.
Let’s look at Bobby Dassey’s testimony (beginning on p 33)
later . . .
Bobby’s testimony was consistent with what Steven told the investigators in his early interviews – there hadn’t been any bonfires since approximately two weeks prior to 10/31/05.
Scott Tadych: There are three documented interviews of Scott Tadych. Scott was dating Barbara Janda at the time of Halbach’s disappearance.
Interview 1 – November 10, 2005 No mention of a fire
Interview 2 November 29, 2005 This time he mentions a fire
Interview 3 March 30, 2006 This time the fire is described as “big”
Finally, at trial Tadych described a fire with flames “as high as the garage” and he testified that it was the fire that stuck out the most about his day. (beginning p. 122)
Notice how Scott’s statements evolved from no mention of a fire to a fire to a big fire with ten feet flames. Were police pressuring him to provide a statement in support of their theory?
Brendan Dassey was interviewed on November 6, 2005. @11:30 he stated “We were gonna have a bonfire on Thursday . . .” He went on to explain that his mother, Barbara Janda cancelled the bonfire. There was no mention of a bonfire October 31, 2005. In fact, Brendan was the first person to mention a bonfire at all. Did investigators use the information to create a story that there was a “bonfire” on Halloween because it would sound incriminating to a jury?
Brendan was interviewed at his school by Detective Wiegert and Special Agent Fassbender on February 27, 2006. At the very beginning of the interview, the investigators told Brendan that there had been a bonfire. They stated it as if it were a fact confirmed by many when the truth is no one mentioned a bonfire in any initial interviews. They didn’t ask him if there was a fire, they TOLD him. That is not a proper way to conduct an interview.
Note that the information about burning a seat referenced a fire that occurred weeks before October 31 but by February time had passed and it became easy to convince Brendan that the bonfire occurred on Halloween. Police needed this to support their theory — that the body was burned that night because bones were allegedly found in the burn pit behind the garage. I say allegedly because investigators did nothing to document that the bones were ever in the burn pit. See this article for more information about the bones.
It seems that by the time of Brendan’s arrest everyone had accepted as fact that there was a bonfire in the burn pit behind Steven Avery’s garage on October 31, 2005. During the Making a Murderer documentary, a phone conversation has Steven discussing it with Barbara.
“That night he (Brendan) came over, we had the bonfire and he was home by 9:00 because Jodie called me at 9:00 and I was in the house already.”
I believe even Steven became convinced that they were burning things on the 31st because everyone accepted it as fact, but it’s much more likely that the most recent fire occurred weeks earlier as told by Steven, Brendan and Blaine in initial interviews – when their memories would have been most reliable.
If we consider the possibility that there was no bonfire on Halloween, we can also consider the likelihood that there was never a body or phone and camera parts burned on that property. The remains were in a condition consistent with a cremation. No crowns of the teeth remained; only root fragments (link). The condition of the bones combined with the fact that the collection wasn’t documented with a single photo and the indications that there was no bonfire on 10/31 means that we must consider that not only was the key, the blood and the bullet planted — so were the bones, and there is a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence to support this claim.