When Ryan Hillegas Enjoyed Being at The Center of Things

Ryan Hillegas surrounded by the search party for Teresa Halbach

The airing of  Dateline NBC on February 17, 2017 revisited Making A Murderer.  It provided almost no new information but it did feature some footage that I had not seen before. In it, shown here in the feature picture above, we see Ryan Hillegas literally surrounded by members of the search party that was organized to look for Teresa Halbach.  It cannot be mistaken that he’s clearly at the center of attention, clearly taking the lead in the search for Teresa Halbach.  Heretofore, we’ve all known that he was an active participant in the search, but by the impression we get from this image, it is clear that he is leading and organizing it.  But why Ryan Hillegas, the ex boyfriend, of all people?

One of the first things we see in the CASO report, page 3, is that Calumet County officer Leslie Lemieux asks Scott Bloedorn and Teresa’s parents whether Teresa had a current boyfriend or a “recent ex boyfriend”  Both Scott and Teresa’s parents deny this, and there is no reason to think they were trying to be deceitful as it was true that Teresa no longer considered Ryan her boyfriend, and it was true that Teresa and Ryan’s breakup had happened a considerable amount of time in the past.  This is an interesting detail because unless the cops of Calumet County, and even possibly the ones in Manitowoc had any reason for knowing and different, they really had no idea what Ryan’s relationship to Teresa would have been.  What reason, therefore, was there to single him out for questioning when the victims mother, and her roommate have told them there is no boyfriend, and no recent ex-boyfriend?  For this reason, it is understandable that law enforcement didn’t think it odd to see Ryan leading the search.

What Scott Bloedorn failed to mention, of course, is that Ryan was probably her last serious relationship, maybe her only one (and maybe Ryan’s only one too) and probably the last known person who knew Teresa to see her before her murder.  Also not mentioned by either Scott or Teresa’s parents was the fact that Ryan seemed to find a lot of excuses to show up at Teresa’s house;  Not only was he there the day before she was murdered to drop off something, he was there at her house after the announcement of her death to “keep an eye on things”. No one, at least in law enforcement, therefore thought it odd that he took care to maintain active friendships with all of the important people who knew Teresa including her parents, her roommate, and even her brother.

Who knows how much time elapsed before the authorities figured out that Ryan had been Teresa’s boyfriend?  When they saw what to be an intelligent young man taking an active role in the search, it would have been natural for them to have assumed he was a relative or a good Samaritan since they’d already been told that Teresa didn’t have a boyfriend or recent ex-boyfriend.

It should also be noted that only a few days elapsed between the official notice of her disappearance on the 3rd of November to the discovery of the RAV4 on the 5th.  That gave investigators less than forty eight hours to question people and develop leads before the entire focus of the investigation, as they themselves admit (and is evident in CASO), became Steven Avery.  In the absence of an ex, ALWAYS the most plausible and LIKELY suspect in a murder investigation, it is somewhat excusable that law enforcement focused on Steven Avery.  If anyone in law enforcement had learned more details about Ryan Hillegas’ true significance, it was too late after the 5th of November when there evidently had already been a rush to judgement.

Taking this a step further, one has to also speculate about whether filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi understood that Ryan had been misidentified by Scott Bloedorn and Karen and Tom Halbach when Leslie Lemieux stopped by to talk to them on November 3rd, and if so, whether their choice to show the footage of Ryan’s appearance in court, to the extent that they did was an effort on their part to let everyone know exactly who Ryan was, and his relevance to the whole matter.  We can see in this footage, for example that Jerry Buting asks Ryan what his relationship to Teresa was, and Ryan answers that he was Teresa’s ex-boyfriend.

And isn’t it funny that now that everyone knows that Ryan was Teresa’s ex, answering anyone’s questions is the last thing on his mind?  Suddenly, being the center of attention is the last thing on Ryan’s mind.  In fact, he seems to have a strong desire to avoid it like the plague.

We do have to keep in mind that the show was produced with the knowledge that Ryan Hillegas had been asked to comment, and refused.  I would think this might have raised a few eyebrows over at Dateline, and I even think it influenced how they put their show together.  Why did Ryan’s name come up at all, I wonder?  What questions did Dateline’s producers have for Ryan?

More than likely, as I’ve already mentioned, they’re probably going on easy on Ryan for now, and biding their time for Kathleen Zellner to come out with whatever she’s is going to come out with one day.  Whether this is because of legal advice or some other reason I cannot say, but what I can say is that I suspect someone at Dateline has had an interest in ratcheting up the pressure on Ryan ever so slightly.

Last year, around this time, I flew out to Wisconsin for the second time in a month to attend a protest held on the the steps of the Manitowoc County Courthouse.  There were about 100 protesters there, and almost as many news people.  Holding a large sign, I took a prominent position on the steps.  But in all the news stories that aired covering that event, not a single one contained any footage of me holding my sign.  None, that is, until the aforementioned Dateline episode came out a few days ago.

I have little doubt that a conscious effort was made to exclude me from any shots that were aired because it was pretty clear that my chief intention was to direct television news viewers to Overthrow.us, and I’m guessing they didn’t want to encourage that.  So that fact that I wasn’t edited out this time might have been Dateline’s way of sending a subtle message to that Wisconsin golden boy we all know and love.

But it’s not too much pressure, of course.  The image of me holding the sign lasted for less than a second or two.  There was also a reference made at the end of the Dateline in question about strange people being at the salvage yard that Kathleen Zellner mentioned by name in her August 2016 motion.  They didn’t say his name, but one of those people was definitely Ryan Hillegas.

The reality is that the suspicion around Ryan Hillegas isn’t ever going away until someone is willing to answer more questions.  I think there are people who know him and who work with him every day, and I think, human nature being what it is, someone is eventually going to talk.  If he had a solid alibi, or if people truly thought it absurd that he might be involved, then someone would have stepped up by now.  And who knows, maybe some have spoken to Kathleen Zellner on the condition that they speak to no one else, and also on the condition that they not even mention they spoke to her.

Until Ryan, or those around him begin to open up, I would predict that suspicions will grow and grow until they cannot be ignored.  Someone, at the very least, HAS to ask him how he got those scratches on his hands!

(And there was one on the right hand too)

Lastly, because the feature picture was cropped to properly fit the format of the picture slider, (and therefore doesn’t show the faces of anyone but Ryan Hillegas), someone on Reddit wanted to see the full picture posted at the top of this article, to see whether Pam Sturm was shown to be present.  It doesn’t look it, but there are shadows of people who are out of the shot, so who knows?

Ryan Hillegas shown sitting in a driveway surrounded by Teresa Habach's search party.

Ryan Hillegas leading the search for Teresa before the cops knew he had been Teresa’s boyfriend for years.