Image: Teresa Halbach
Family photo
Teresa Halbach was last seen Oct. 31. Her SUV was found at a salvage yard belonging to Steven Avery.
updated 11/15/2005 2:17:58 PM ET 2005-11-15T19:17:58

A man who served 18 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit was charged Tuesday with killing a missing freelance photographer who had an appointment with him the last day she was seen alive.

Investigators searching for Teresa Halbach found human teeth and bones in a burn pit behind Steven Avery’s garage, authorities said. The remains had not been positively identified as Halbach’s but authorities believe they are all that’s left of the 25-year-old woman, said Calumet County Sheriff Gerald Pagel.

Avery was charged with murder and mutilation of a corpse in Manitowoc County Circuit Court.

Avery, 43, who has denied any knowledge of Halbach’s disappearance. He has repeatedly told reporters he believes he is being set up because of his pending $36 million lawsuit against Manitowoc County for the wrongful rape conviction that sent him to prison.

Halbach vanished Oct. 31 after going to the Avery family’s auto salvage business in Manitowoc County to photograph a minivan that was for sale. Her relatives later found her sport utility vehicle at the salvage yard.

Avery was taken into custody last week and charged with a weapons violation. He was also due to appear in court on that charge Tuesday.

DNA analysis
Investigators searching for Halbach say they found her SUV key, with Avery’s DNA on it, hidden in Avery’s bedroom. Avery’s DNA and Halbach’s blood were inside her SUV, Pagel said.

Pagel said investigators also were waiting for the crime lab to finish analyzing DNA that was not Halbach’s or Avery’s. Pagel said they were trying to determine whether anyone else in the Avery family was involved in the murder.

According to two search warrants released Monday, investigators:

  • Seized Avery’s computer, looking on the hard drive for images of sexually explicit material, including pornographic images, bondage, torture and death, that could point to a possible motive.
  • Found steel belts of about six tires that were used as fire accelerants.
  • Found a number of five-gallon buckets that appeared to have been used to distribute burned remains.

Avery was convicted of sexual assault in 1985 and was sentenced to 32 years in prison, but he was freed in 2003 after DNA samples exonerated him.

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