Algoma Photo & Story came up with the brilliant idea and sat down to speak with Wilmer Siebert, who lived on the southeast side of Avery Auto Salvage, directly beside the entrance to the stone quarry and behind the huge salvage yard in 2005. (See aerial map below for clarification.)
Avery is currently serving a life sentence (without the possibility for parole) for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach and illegally possessing a firearm. Avery, who had previously been jailed for 18 years for a sexual assault in 1985, was exonerated in that case by newly discovered DNA evidence in 2003.
Two years later, Avery brought a US$36-million lawsuit against Manitowoc County, Wisc., for the wrongful conviction. Making a Murderer calls into question the investigation and trial that put Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, behind bars, and alleges the investigators and police in the case planted evidence and otherwise manipulated the outcome of the trial.
One of the main pieces of evidence against Avery was Halbach’s blood-stained Toyota Rav4, discovered covered in branches and other debris by a volunteer search party in the rear area of Avery Auto Salvage in November 2005.
Siebert, Avery’s neighbour at the time, thinks he may have seen Halbach’s Rav4 drive onto the Avery property — accompanied by another car, a white Jeep, he claims — and to the back of the auto salvage a few days before the police discovered the vehicle.
While he said it was a regular occurrence to see a lot of vehicles using that back road, these two stood out because of their rate of speed, which was much faster than normal. He never saw the Rav4 re-emerge.
Siebert couldn’t make out how many people were in each vehicle, but is pretty certain it was Halbach’s Rav4 because of its colour and the rarity of the model. He also expressed skepticism about the search party finding the Rav4 so quickly; he’d been buying auto parts from Avery since the 1970s, and it was never a quick process.
According to Siebert, police working the investigation also barricaded the entrance and blocked off the section of the quarry road that goes in the direction of the Avery Salvage Yard, and Siebert was asked to let the cops know if he witnessed anybody trying to go past the barricades.
One night shortly afterwards, he saw Manitowoc police cars drive through the barricades and head to the Avery property late into the night. He saw lights on for several hours. Wanting to report it but without a contact number, he told his daughter Victoria, who then called the police. The police told her there was nothing to worry about. (Victoria Siebert confirmed this.)
Apparently, the next day, the authorities announced that they’d found Halbach’s car keys on the Avery property.
Siebert’s testimony is questioned by many who claim his age (70-something years) may taint his recall ability. Avery’s lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, has not commented on the neighbour’s account of events.
He says he has never been questioned by investigators or police, and was only once shown a photo of Halbach by an FBI agent to see if he knew her. (He didn’t.)
“I really didn’t want to get involved,” he said. “I didn’t know for sure what was going on and how this was going to be handled.”