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A new witness has come forward with testimony that could upend the infamous "Making A Murderer" case, according to the attorney working on Steven Avery's appeal.
A quick recap: Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted in 2007 of murdering Teresa Halbach two years earlier. Halbach, a photographer who worked for an automotive publication, had visited Avery's home in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin on Oct. 31, 2005 in order to photograph a vehicle he'd put up for sale. She disappeared after that scheduled appointment. Her Toyota RAV-4 was subsequently found in the salvage yard Avery owned, located near his home, and investigators discovered charred bones in a burn pit on the property that they later identified as Halbach's, leading to Avery's arrest. Following their convictions, Avery and Dassey, who was just 16 at the time of Halbach's murder, were sentenced to life in prison.
In the latest development, Avery’s attorney Kathleen Zellner filed a new motion Monday asking for the case to be sent back to circuit court after a newspaper delivery driver reached out to Avery’s legal team, saying he had seen Bobby Dassey—Avery’s nephew and the brother of Brendan Dassey—in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2005, before Halbach’s dark blue RAV-4 was discovered by authorities, pushing that same vehicle toward the junkyard on the Avery property with an unidentified older man.
The delivery driver, Thomas Sowinski, stated in a sworn affidavit attached to the new court filing that he drove by a shirtless Bobby and the older man, described as being in his 50s or 60s, on his way to deliver newspapers to the Avery mailbox before turning around his vehicle to pass by the pair a second time on his way to the exit.
When he passed the RAV-4 a second time, Sowinski saw Bobby try to “step in front of his car to block him from leaving the property” and had to swerve into a shallow ditch to get past him.
“I felt very afraid as I approached the two individuals because Bobby Dassey attempted to step in front of my car, blocking my exit,” Sowinski said. “I was within 5 feet of Bobby Dassey and my headlights were on the entire time.”
Sowinski said he shouted “Paperboy. Gotta go,” as he swerved around Bobby because he was afraid for his safety.
“Bobby Dassey looked me in the eye, and I could tell with the look in his eyes that he was not happy to see me there,” Sowinski said, adding he felt the two men were “doing something creepy.”
After authorities discovered the RAV-4 later that same day, Avery’s attorneys say Sowinski “realized the significance of what he had observed” and immediately called the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office.
He spoke with a female deputy and described what he had seen but was told “We already know who did it,” according to the court documents.
Sowinski said he provided his name and phone number to authorities, but they never contacted him about the case.
The case became the focus of the intense media attention after it was profiled in the 2015 Netflix docu-series “Making A Murder,” which raised questions about the investigation.
Zellner has argued that the new witness’ account of what Sowinski saw that morning is critical to the case because Bobby had served as the “primary witness” in Avery’s trial, according to The Post Crescent.
Bobby told jurors that he had seen Halbach drive up to the property around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2005 and begin taking pictures of his mother’s van before seeing her walk toward Avery’s trailer, placing Halbach with Avery the last time she was seen alive.
Bobby said he never saw the woman again and left the property to go hunting a few minutes later. When he came home around 5 p.m., he said Halbach’s vehicle was gone.
Zellner argued in her filing that the state suppressed the evidence of Sowinski’s account and did not give Avery a “fair trial” or allow him to mount a proper defense.
According to the motion, Sowinski’s testimony could have been used by the defense during the trial to destroy Bobby’s credibility, establish that Bobby was directly involved in the case and establish that he “planted evidence to frame his uncle, Mr. Avery.”
Sowinski described the unidentified man he saw that morning alongside Bobby as a male in his 50s or 60s with a long grey beard and larger frame, according to the affidavit.
He estimated the man was about 6 feet tall and said he had been wearing a puffy jacket at the time.
Zellner said on Twitter Monday that “tips are coming in” about who that second person might have been.
“The witness provides the most important evidence in the case to date,” Zellner told Newsweek in a statement. “He not only discredits the State’s star witness he links this person to the murder. The police ignored his tip. Steven would not have been convicted if this evidence had been known.”
The latest filing in Avery’s case comes after more than a year of filings between prosecutors and the defense as part of an appeal, The Post Crescent reports. An appeals court has yet to hold a hearing on the matter and the status of the appeal was listed in November as “awaiting opinion/decision” after it had been “submitted on briefs,” according to court records obtained by the paper.
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