How They Did It

Sgt. Jason Orth is the first person on the scene at just after 11:00 am on November 5,2005.  He looks into the back of a 1999 Toyota RAV4 and reports seeing a card with Teresa Halbach’s name on it:

Sgt Orth begins his log.  This will be hours before another log is begun at 2:25 pm. He records people who arriving on the scene.  People begin to arrive quickly, including Remiker and Lt. Hermann.  Notably, Orth does not report seeing large amounts of blood in the back of RAV4, directly where he is looking even though he is able to read Teresa Halbach’s name off of a business card.

Though the narrative constructed during Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey’s trial leads jurors to believe that visibility is poor outside, this is contradicted by photographic evidence taken by Zhang Guang, a photographer from the crime lab who arrived on the scene at around 2:00 pm.  This photograph is among the first taken that day (11/05/2005) shortly after Guang’s arrival.

 

At trial, however, prosecutor Thomas Fallon realizes he has a bit of a problem.  If it is clear outside, then it should be possible to get a clear view of the interior of the RAV4, so he begins this line of questioning.  As you read it, keep in mind that he is specifically referring to the period of time shortly after the photographer’s arrival:

 

It wasn’t so difficult to see through the tinted glass that you couldn’t read the name off of a business card.  In any case, Fallon is leading up to one of the most important questions in the entire trial:

He spent 5 or 10 minutes looking and didn’t see any blood?  There were several men looking into the vehicle, by the way, and not a single one reported seeing any blood.  Below is a photograph taken by Ronald Groffy on 11/06/2005 after the RAV4 had been shipped off to the crime lab in Madison, Wisconsin.  The blood is clearly visible.  It is therefore inconceivable that a multitude of men and women with specialized crime scene training, on a crime scene for the express purpose of looking for blood and things of the like would miss seeing this amount of blood in broad daylight (and it was daylight outside when the men and women were peering into the RAV4).

 

Ken Kratz, unbeknownst to most, was one of the first people on the scene.  In fact, he arrived before the photographer did.  It is actually shortly after he arrives that he is named special prosecutor.  The reason he was named special prosecutor is because he was out of Calumet County.  The idea was that they were already anticipating and trying to avoid conflict of interest issues that might have arisen had a DA out of Manitowoc County been assigned to handle the case.  But how would they have known at this point whether there would be a conflict of interest if they didn’t know Steven Avery was the culprit?

The photo below was taken in the evening, obviously, and it provides a vital clue.  Though the RAV4 is clearly encumbered by branches, and even though it has been where it is for several days, presumably, there are no leaves on the bumper!  We’ll get back to this in a moment…

When men arrived around 6:00 pm to load up the RAV4 to take it to processed at the crime lab in Madison, they had a hell of a time.  The wheels were locked, so it wouldn’t roll, and the doors were locked which meant no one could enter to release the break or put the vehicle in neutral.  If there weren’t any leaves on the RAV4 at this point, it’s difficult to imagine how they would have remained on after the extremes they had to go to load the vehicle into a trailer.  The task took them a total of 2 hours!

Oh yeah, someone also tried the hood latch to get it open.  The record doesn’t state whether this tow truck driver wore gloves, or whether anyone asked him to put a pair on.

The men finally head leave Avery Salvage with the vehicle loaded.  The time is 8:42 pm, and they are headed for the crime lab in Madison, Wisconsin.  The distance is 145 miles, and at normal driving speed, this would take about two hours and forty minutes, putting them in Madison at around 11:30pm.  They do not arrive, however until after 1:00am on 11/06/2005  Ken Kratz leaves a this exact same time.  Is he also going to the crime lab?  It looks like he leaves in a separate vehicle.

 



Once everyone arrived at the crime lab, it was still a major ordeal to get the RAV4 unloaded, and the DA asks about this.  What he doesn’t realize, however…

 

is that he digging a hole for himself that gets deeper and deeper.  Not only does official photography document that there were there no leaves on the bumper to begin with, in the very remote chance a few might have floated on the wind to land on the bumper after the RAV4 had been extracted from the corner of the salvage yard where it had been located, the chances that any would have remained after being hoisted in the air by a wrecker, loaded onto a camper, driven 145 miles, and then hoisted and jostled again for nearly an hour are just about zero.  Agreed?  Yet, suddenly there are leaves all over the front bumper.  The picture below, by the way, was taken by Ronald Groffy between 11:00 am and 12:00 on November 6th, 2005, according to his own sworn testimony.

Why, you might ask, are the leaves so important?  If the leaves are where they are, then it means the hood could not have been opened.  If the hood had been opened, the leaves would have slid off the hood.  If someone had put the leaves where they are seen in the picture after the vehicle had been towed to the crime lab, they also must have realized that leaves only on the hood, and none on the ledge of the bumper might have looked a little suspicious, so they put some there too.  Funny how there aren’t any leaves stuck in the grill anywhere though.  Further, if the hood could not have been opened, then the battery cables could not have been disconnected by anyone at the crime lab before Ronald Groffy arrived to take his pictures (one of which showed that the battery cable had been disconnected).

Below is a picture I took (earlier this evening, as luck would have it) of the front, driver’s side wheel well of a 1999 Toyota RAV4 identical to Teresa Halbach’s.  There is a backing of some kind which prevents visibility of of the back side of the blinker assembly.  This too is an important detail.

This picture, again taken during the earliest hours of the discovery of Teresa Halbach’s 1999 Toyota RAV4 clearly shows that this backing is absent.  It is clear, however, that despite the backing being absent, the blinker assembly is in place.  The way that you can tell is that if it were not in place, you would be able see through the void it left to the ground below.  And though there is no void (since the assembly is in place) you can tell that the backing is absent because you can see a swatch of teal paint that you wouldn’t be able to see if it were present.

To bolster this claim even further, I’ve included this official photograph taken in April 4, 2006 which clearly shows the tread on the tire of the RAV4 after the blinker assembly has been removed.  Clearly there is no backing which would obstruct light.  If the bumper had been in this state in the photograph shown above, it would look much different.

So, where am I going with this?  The blinker assembly was somehow dislodged, probably as the vehicle was being either loaded or unloaded.  If this loading and unloading process was tumultuous enough to cause the blinker to fall out of its cavity on the bumper, one should imagine that the leaves on the bumper would have also been dislodged.  But it also proves something else of vital importance.  The vehicle was opened from either the rear, or the left passenger side door.  The photograph below, taken by Ronald Groffy on November 6th, proves this.  Groffy testified that when he arrived at the crime lab, he did find that the driver’s side door had been opened, but that all other doors were locked.  What this shows is that another door had been opened (there would be virtually no way to place the blinker where it is shown through the driver’s side door), and then, if we are to trust the reliability of Groffy’s testimony, locked up again after the blinker was put in.  Or, maybe Groffy was mistaken, but it hardly makes any difference.  It is quite clear that the vehicle has been breached.  Despite the glare of the flash, you can also distinctly see, (hopefully before 5 or 10 minutes has gone by), Teresa’s blood just above the carpeting to the right.  The blood, that is, that no one saw, until the RAV4 arrived at the crime lab (with Ken Kratz?).

 

UPDATE

Some have written in to point out that this picture shows that one is actually able to see through the bumper, precisely where I pointed out it would not be possible to:

And, I do believe they are correct.  HOWEVER..the blinker that we see in the back of the cargo area  is sheared off on one end, and it is likely the hole you see is only from the portion of the blinker that’s missing.  The blinker below is what the full blinker looks like.

The end that is intact looks like it’s about two to three inches longer than Teresa’s blinker, and it looks like that’s about the the width of the rectangular shaped hole.

 

 

2 comments