Bobby Dassey is the brother of Brendan Dassey, the then-teenager who was convicted, along with his uncle Steven Avery, of murdering photographer Teresa Halbach.
He testified that he saw Teresa alive on the property that day in 2005. Halbach’s bone and teeth fragments were later found burned on the Avery family salvage yard property, where the Dassey brothers and Avery lived, along with others. Bobby Dassey has been one of the key people named in court motions by Avery’s post-conviction lawyer, Kathleen Zellner. (You can see crime scene photos from the case here.)
That’s because he was on the family property that day. What did Bobby Dassey testify in court? What has Zellner said in court filings about him? You can read that below. Be aware that Bobby Dassey has never been arrested, charged, nor implicated in Halbach’s death in any way by prosecutors. They argued successfully before juries that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey committed the crime. The case has received national attention, however, as the defense arguments were featured in two seasons of Making a Murderer on Netflix. Zellner has aggressively attacked the prosecution’s theories in the case in multiple ways, from the blood evidence to the burn location. She’s been more successful to that regard with fans of the Netflix show than she has in a courtroom.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bobby Dassey Testified That He Saw Teresa Halbach the Day She Vanished
What did Bobby Dassey testify in court? According to Manitowoc County court records and trial transcripts:
Bobby Dassey had worked a third-shift job at a Two Rivers factory that made fume hoods. Now, he was home alone that Halloween afternoon in his mother’s trailer at Avery’s Auto Salvage, sleeping in mid-afternoon, according to his trial testimony.
The brown-haired, blue-eyed Bobby, then 19, awoke at around 2:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m. and saw the light green SUV pull into the driveway. It was Teresa Halbach. She alighted from the SUV, and snapped one or two pictures of Barb Janda’s maroon van before walking toward Steven Avery’s trailer. Barb Janda, now Tadych, is the mother of both Bobby and Brendan Dassey.
Bobby would testify that he took a three-to-four minute shower, got dressed and then grabbed a bow to go deer hunting. He thought he left about 2:45-3 p.m. Halbach’s SUV was still parked in the driveway, but he did not see her anymore.
Bobby was one of the many people on the junkyard property that day in addition to Steven Avery.
Janda’s other sons, Blaine and Brendan Dassey, both testified that they were there that afternoon. Blaine, 18, testified that, when he arrived home with Brendan, 16, on the school bus at about 3:40 p.m., they settled into Barb’s trailer, with Blaine playing on the computer while Brendan played video games.
The bus driver – who seemed the most neutral observer – testified that she dropped Blaine and Brendan Dassey at the end of Avery Road between 3:30 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. Lisa Buchner drove school bus for Mishicot High School. “I remember seeing a woman taking photographs,” she said, of “a van. In the driveway.” Later on, at home, she wondered “why would anyone take a picture of that piece of junk?” (Halbach was photographing the van for a magazine.)
Buchner didn’t remember the exact day but knew it was around Halloween, according to court transcripts.
However, she said the woman was photographing vehicles that “were at the end of the driveway.” That wasn’t where Janda’s van was positioned. This allowed the defense to raise the prospect that Teresa had moved on from the Janda van assignment to something else on the property, maybe a hustle shot, or maybe a photo requested by another person who was there.
“Somebody else would have had to ask her to take a photograph up at this end. Because that’s not where the maroon van was,” said Avery’s defense attorney, Dean Strang, court records show.
John Leurquin was another independent eyewitness. Leurquin worked for Valders Co-op, and he would fill his truck with propane at a big tank at the corner of Avery Road and Highway 147. He was there on Halloween between 3:30 and 4 p.m. “I recall seeing a green SUV,” he said. The truck driver said it was midsize. “I seen a vehicle pass by the front of my truck, and I just glanced up, and it was a green SUV, and that’s all,” he testified. Teresa drove a blue-green RAV4.
“It was leaving,” insisted Leurquin, who said he wasn’t friends with the Averys and had only done business there 3-4 times. He later saw Teresa’s RAV4 on the news. “I can’t say it was that one or a different one,” he said, before adding that it was similar to Teresa’s. He couldn’t tell if a man or woman was driving. Scott Tadych, who was dating the Dassey brothers’ mother, also had a green vehicle. Leurquin didn’t remember seeing the school bus.
2. Blaine Dassey Gave Statements About Bobby’s Whereabouts That Day
Bobby Dassey wasn’t the only Dassey brother to speak to authorities about the sequence of events the day Teresa disappeared. Blaine Dassey, another brother, also gave statements. According to court documents:
When they got home, Blaine called his friend, Jason, because they were going to go trick-or-treating. He went on the computer for 30 minutes. Brendan was playing video games. The family’s computer was in the same room as the TV room. Bobby wasn’t there, he said. On another occasion, though, Blaine said, “Bobby was sleeping” when Blaine and Brendan got off the school bus that day at about 3:40, contradicting Bobby’s timeline.
“Bobby was not out deer hunting?” Avery’s defense attorney would ask.
“You remember that?”
Blaine also told the investigators that he was scared of his uncle Steven “because he used to boss us around.” Blaine stayed in the residence until 5:30 p.m., when he left to go trick-or-treating, not returning until 11.
Bryan Dassey was home by 5, and Bobby, Blaine and Brendan were “home at that time,” the court records claimed. Bryan said he might have played video games, took a shower and then got ready to go to his girlfriend’s house. “He said he overheard Brendan talking with Steven about needing some help doing something.” When Bryan left at 6:30-7 to go to his girlfriend’s house for the night, he, too, noticed “that there was smoke coming from behind Steven’s garage but did not think much of it.” He said Avery “burns twice a month. The owner of the gravel pit was clearing brush, and Steven had offered to burn that for him,” according to police reports.
3. Scott Tadych & Bobby Dassey Were Each Other’s Alibis
One of the most colorful characters on the property off-and-on that day was Scott Tadych, then 37, the tattooed foundry worker boyfriend of Barb Janda. He would later marry her. At the time of the Halbach murder, Barb was married to his cousin, Tom Janda, but they were separated, and she was dating Tadych. Tadych told police that Barb was staying with him “due to trouble at her home.” He had known her 1½ years.
Court records say:
Tadych took a vacation day from the factory where he worked that Halloween to visit his mother in Green Bay because she had back surgery. “I left her … I went to my trailer, and then I went to the woods hunting,” he said. A bow hunter, he arrived at his deer stand about 3, he said. Tadych did not live on the Avery property. But how good was he vetted? A lead investigator admitted in court that he did not think authorities attempted to verify Tadych’s hospital account.
On his way to neighboring Kewaunee to hunt, Tadych testified, “I saw Bobby Dassey on Highway 147. I was going west, and he was going east.” They waved at each other. He said it was about 3:10 p.m., police reports show. Highway 147 abuts Avery’s Auto Salvage.
On his way to hunt deer in a black Chevy Blazer, Bobby Dassey also said he passed Scott Tadych. He told police Tadych would be able to “precisely” pinpoint the time. Bobby didn’t have any luck with his hunting and said he returned home at about 5 p.m. The photographer’s SUV was gone. He watched TV, and then went back to sleep for about three hours. Tadych and Bobby Dassey are each other’s only alibis for that time period. Asked why he was so certain Tadych would remember the time they passed each other, Bobby testified, “Maybe he looked at his clock in the truck.” He said he was just guessing that Tadych would know the precise time they crossed paths.
Tadych arrived at his tree stand at about 3:30 and said he finished hunting at about 5 and then went back to the Dassey residence to “pick up Barb to go back to Green Bay to see my mother.” Barb was already home when Tadych pulled his green Ford Ranger into the Avery’s Auto Salvage driveway. He said they stayed in Green Bay until 7:40 p.m. and then returned to the salvage yard “to drop Barb off at her house so she could get her vehicle.” He didn’t even know the names of all Barb’s children. He insisted that he “had no idea what happened at the Avery place.”
At around 7:30-7:45 p.m. on Halloween, when he was dropping Barb back off, Tadych also observed a large fire in the burn area behind the detached garage of Steven Avery. He saw Brendan Dassey and Steven Avery standing next to the fire. “It was the fire that I remember the most of that day; the fire by Steven’s trailer.” At another point, his description became vaguer.
“I saw a big fire. It was bigger than normal.” Of that, he was certain.
Tadych saw Steven Avery standing around the fire “standing there, standing by the fire” and the flames were “almost as tall as the garage.” Tadych went back to his trailer off the property to watch “Prison Break” at 8 p.m., and Barb came over to watch it with him. Later, at the Avery trial, his timeline would shift somewhat. He said he got home from the hospital between 2:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. Defense attorney Dean Strang asked, “Did you tell the police on Nov. 29 that you arrived home at 3:15?” Zellner, in the Netflix series, has contended that the body could not have burned that way in the pit where authorities say it was essentially cremated on the junkyard property.
“I may have,” Tadych said. He said he didn’t remember telling them that because it had been such a long time. When he saw Bobby Dassey turn onto Highway 147, he said he knew that Dassey “was going to hunt behind the trailer where I live. He had permission from the landlord to hunt there.”
He said Bobby Dassey would have known Tadych was going hunting too because “I was in my camouflage clothes.” He didn’t recall seeing a fire at 5:15, but Avery defense attorney Strang said Tadych told police he saw the fire between 5:15 and 5:30.
4. Avery’s Defense Attorneys Focused Somewhat on Bobby Dassey
Avery’s appellate attorneys, in a court brief, said the trial judge’s exclusion of the alternative suspect theories made it harder for Avery to mount a defense. “A difficulty with Mr. Avery’s defense was that it relied upon a theory that Ms. Halbach’s killer or killers were not the same people as those who framed him.” Without learning about other possible killers, the jury was left with two possibilities: The police or Steven Avery did it, said the attorneys.
“The court’s order prevented Mr. Avery from introducing evidence that Bobby Dassey had his own .22 Marlin gun, the same model believed to have been the murder weapon in this case,” continued the filing. “The ruling prevented Mr. Avery from calling Earl and Charles Avery (Steven’s brothers) as witnesses to question their whereabouts on Oct. 31, 2005, and whether they knew Teresa Halbach was coming that day. Earl Avery was said to know every single car on the Avery Salvage Yard property. Defense counsel could have called him to question why he did not notice Ms. Halbach’s badly concealed vehicle on the property, even though it was alleged to have been there for days before it was found by the Sturms (citizen searchers). Counsel could have introduced evidence of Tadych’s character for violence and lack of truthfulness, or of Charles Avery’s prior aggressive conduct with women who had visited the Avery Salvage Yard in the past.”
The appellate attorneys argued that “Tadych’s motive to kill Ms. Halbach is his violent and volatile personality,” and alleged that Tadych was described by a co-worker as “not being hooked up right and someone who would fly off the handle at everyone at work.” Charles Avery’s motive, alleged the defense in the court documents, was “jealousy for Steven over money, a share of the family business and over Jodi Stachowski.” Charles’ daughter, Carla, told police that Charles “puts up with Steven working at the yard, but that he does not really want him to work there,” the court documents say.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge was right to not allow the alternative suspect theories, though, using a 1984 case called State v. Denny. The legal terminology is called third-party liability. According to the Court of Appeals, to meet the Denny standard for admittance of such third-party liability, the defense had to establish that the alternative suspects had motive, opportunity and a direct connection to the crime.
The court basically found that Avery could show a variety of others had opportunity but did not establish motive or any direct link to the crime by the people above. “The parties identified by Avery may have had the opportunity to commit the crime; however, Avery was unable to demonstrate that any of the named individuals had a motive to commit the alleged offenses against Halbach,” the appeals court said, denying Avery’s bid for a new trial.
The court noted that the trial judge found that, “Avery offered no physical or other evidence connecting any of the individuals to the crime, other than their presence in the general vicinity. One can only imagine how much longer this six-week trial would have lasted had the court granted (Avery’s) request to introduce third-party liability evidence …”
In a stipulation in court, the jury was later told that a family friend, Michael Osmunson, claimed Avery joked about the missing woman.
“He and Bobby were inside the Dassey garage when Steven came over. Michael indicated he was aware Steve was one of the last people to see the missing girl and jokingly asked Steven if Steven had the missing girl in a closet. At this point, Steven asked Michael if Michael wanted to help bury the body, and they laughed about this together.”
5. Kathleen Zellner Has Raised Questions About Bobby Dassey
Steven Avery’s post-conviction lawyer has accused Bobby Dassey in court filings of possibly being the person who accessed a CD that she says shows searches for pornographic images from the Internet, including dead and mutilated women who were raped and tortured.
In October 2017, Kathleen Zellner filed a motion in Wisconsin courts asking Judge Angela Sutkiewicz to reconsider her earlier decision denying a defense motion to give Avery a new trial. In that motion, Zellner raised the accusations about the CD. In a motion to reconsider, Zellner argued, “[T]he Dassey computer contains images of Ms. Halbach, violent pornography and dead bodies of young females viewed by Bobby Dassey at relevant time periods before and after the murder of Ms. Halbach.”
You can read the motion in full here.
She alleged in the court filing that “the Dassey computer contains images of Ms. Halbach, violent pornography and dead bodies of young females viewed by Bobby Dassey at relevant time periods before and after the murder of Ms. Halbach.”
“New computer forensic technology reveals…images of Ms. Halbach, many images of violent pornography involving young females being raped and tortured, and images of injuries to females, including a decapitated head, bloodied torso, a bloody head injury, and a mutilated body, on the Dassey computer,” claimed Zellner’s motion.
“Many of the female images, both alive and deceased, bear an uncanny resemblance to Ms. Halbach,” it alleges.
She further claimed “these searches have been isolated to times when only Bobby Dassey was home. Although there was only one user account on the Dassey computer, the relevant searches occurred during times when Bobby Dassey was alone in the house. While Bobby worked nights and was home during the day on weekdays, all of his family members either attended high school or worked the day shift. “
“The quantity and nature of the pornographic content recovered…from the Dassey computer should have alerted investigators to the individual viewing such images as someone at elevated risk of committing a sexually motivated violent crime.”
Police procedure expert Gregg McCrary submitted a supplemental affidavit wherein he describes his opinion that the violent, underage, and child pornography, combined with the images of and searches for dead bodies, “reflects a co-morbidity of sexual paraphilias.”
McCrary’s opinion is that “Bobby Dassey was becoming obsessively deviant in his viewing of violent pornography” in the weeks “before Ms. Halbach’s October 31, 2005 appointment at the Avery Salvage yard property,” the defense motion alleges.
Zellner argued that “Bobby Dassey’s testimony was critical to the state’s case against Mr. Avery.” She recounted how prosecutor Ken Kratz told the jury: “…you will hear testimony about, that at about 2:45 on the 31st of October, Bobby saw a young girl drive up to the Avery property. Bobby Dassey saw this young girl, later identified as Teresa Halback (sic), get out of her teal, or blue or green colored SUV and actually take pictures of the van that her mom had for sale.”
She recently retweeted this:
In September 2018, Sheboygan Judge Angela Sutkiewicz rejected Zellner’s quest for a new trial for Avery; she rejected a motion that centered around the CD that Zellner argued was withheld evidence from the defense. WMTV reported that the judge sided with the state, which had argued that the CD was a summary of other CDs that the defense did have.
“While the defense did not have those specific impressions of Detective Velie prior to trial, the information that he used to create the CD in question was in possession of the defendant prior to trial,” Sutkiewicz wrote in the ruling.
Law and Crime has criticized the Zellner timeline on the CD, indicating that the “problem for Zellner is that her own computer expert’s attached affidavit directly refutes her assertion about the timing of the Halbach photos.”
The expert said, according to Law and Crime, “Since the files were recovered via data carving, there is no file system metadata available. The files’ original path, file name, and created, accessed, or modified timestamps are not available, nor is there any information regarding how they arrived on the computer.”
A report from investigator Tom Fassbender indicated the images were saved in April 2006, after the Halbach murder, according to Law and Crime. “It seems there is no evidence the images of Halbach were accessed by someone using the Dassey computer before the crime,” the site reports.
As for the other pornographic images, Law and Crime states, “The images said to have been found on the computer carry the dates of April 9, 2006, and April 19, 2006. It is unclear if the images which contain 2006 dates could have been searched and downloaded on the 2005 date.”
You can read the entire Law and Crime report here. The site also questions whether Zellner can really prove that Bobby Dassey was the person who accessed the images, saying other people might have had access to the computer.