Scott Tadych is one of the most scrutinized characters in Making a Murderer Parts 1 and 2. He’s the now husband of Brendan Dassey’s mother, and he was one of the people who was on the family salvage yard the day that photographer Teresa Halbach was murdered.
To be clear, Tadych has never been arrested, charged, nor implicated by authorities in any way in connection with Halbach’s grisly slaying. Rather, he testified in court. Dassey and his much older uncle, Steven Avery, were convicted by juries in the Wisconsin murder. Avery’s post-conviction lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, argues that Avery was wrongfully convicted of murder, just as he was of a previous sexual assault.
She has tweeted about Tadych:
What did Tadych testify in court? What do court records say about him? (You can see crime scene photos from the case here.)
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tadych Was the Boyfriend & Now Husband of Brendan Dassey’s Mom
One of the most colorful characters on the property off-and-on the day Teresa Halbach was murdered was 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 1 ½ years.
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. That’s the information he gave authorities, according to the court file.
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.
2. Tadych & Bobby Dassey Were Each Other’s Alibis
Bobby Dassey was one of Brendan Dassey’s brothers. He was also on the junkyard property that day, he testified in court – and he and Tadych were each other’s alibis.
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. According to court records:
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.
3. Tadych Returned to the Salvage Yard That Day
According to court records of what he told authorities, 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. In court, Avery Defense attorney Dean Strang asked, “Did you tell the police on Nov. 29 that you arrived home at 3:15?”
“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.
Defense attorney Strang also asked Tadych about a report that he was “trying to sell one of the Dassey boys’ .22s to a man named Jay Mathison at work?” He denied it. Zellner has challenged the prosecution’s theories in the case, including where the original burn site was located.
4. Avery’s Lawyers Tried to Raise Questions About Tadych in a Court Filing
Avery’s attorneys raised questions about Tadych on appeal even before Kathleen Zellner was involved.
According to the defense motion filed in court, Avery’s attorneys argued that Tadych had a volatile personality. His co-workers allegedly described him as a short-tempered, angry person. He was also allegedly a chronic liar known to blow up at people, someone who “screams a lot” and is a “psycho,” the court filing alleged.
He was previously charged in 1994 with criminal trespass and battery. The criminal complaint alleged he went to a woman’s home at 3 a.m. and knocked on her bedroom window. Then, he allegedly walked into her home and stated, “You will die for this, b*tch.” He then allegedly knocked a man with the woman unconscious.
Three years later, he was charged with recklessly causing bodily harm to another male, as well as disorderly conduct and damage to property, court documents say. Allegedly, he swung at a woman, pushed her down basement stairs, pulled her hair and punched an 11-year-old and then damaged property. In 1998, he was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct for allegedly entering his mother’s home without permission. He shoved her and called her vile names, the court documents contend.
In 2001, a woman filed a petition for a temporary restraining order against Tadych, alleging he threatened her repeatedly, spit on her car and pushed his way into her home. In 2001, he allegedly assaulted the woman again, shoving her and punching her.
5. Further Questions Were Raised About Tadych
Tadych had easy access to the salvage yard property and admitted he was on it twice on the day that Halbach disappeared. His alibi in the case was Bobby Dassey. A co-worker allegedly reported Tadych approached him to sell the .22 rifle. A .22 rifle was believed to be the murder weapon, or at least one of them. Tadych denied trying to sell the rifle in court testimony; later ballistics evidence matched an important bullet with Halbach’s DNA on it to Avery’s rifle, although the defense claimed that bullet was planted too.
A co-worker allegedly said Tadych left work on the day Steven Avery was arrested and was a “nervous wreck” and commented that one of the other people had blood on his clothes and that the clothes had “gotten mixed up with his laundry,” the court filing alleged.
Not all past criminal allegations against him resulted in convictions. Tadych’s last criminal case on Wisconsin’s circuit court website was a conviction in 2002 for disorderly conduct. He was also convicted of the following cases, per CCAP (the official Wisconsin court records database): criminal trespass to dwelling in 1998; disorderly conduct in 1997; battery in 1997; and battery in 1995.
Avery’s appellate attorneys, in a court brief, said the 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 witnesses). 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.”
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 …”
You can listen to an angry prison phone call involving Tadych, Avery, and Barb here. Be aware that the language is very graphic.