This Amateur 'Making A Murderer' Sleuth is on a Quest to Prove Steven Avery's Innocence

By: Amelia McDonell-Parry

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Netflix’s hit docu-series Making A Murderer” was like candy for armchair detectives who love a good whodunit. Convinced of Steven Avery’s innocence in the murder of Teresa Halbach, many viewers were still left scratching their heads — if Avery didn’t commit the murder, who did?

We’ve already told you about some of the more popular internet theories, and shared one former FBI agent’s belief that a super sneaky serial killer is to blame, but here’s one more amateur Sherlock who thinks he’s solved this potential mystery…

Daniel Luke is profiled over at the Daily Dot’s Kernel Mag, in a fascinating story about Luke’s quest to prove Avery’s innocence. After watching “MAM,” Luke felt an “incandescent” anger, as he put it, that two men (Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey) were behind bars for a crime he and many others believe they didn’t commit. But a second viewing of the 10-episode series made things suddenly click into place for the 46-year-old Portland resident.

“I think I solved the Teresa Halbach case!” he tweeted on December 22, 2015.


Luke believes that Halbach’s ex, Ryan Hillegas, is responsible for her death — or he at least knows more than he’s admitted to.

Photo by: Facebook


Luke’s theory is based largely on a feeling, one shared by plenty of “MAM” viewers that there was something off about the guy Halbach dated for five years. But that hunch had more personal roots — Luke has had trouble with the law, having been charged for assault, attempted murder, menacing, burglary, coercion, and mischief, amongst others. This is not something he hides — the About section on his website (which is devoted to his Hillegas theory), he highlights his criminal record and even includes his mugshot.

But Luke thinks his brushes with the law, and his history of having a temper, actually gives him a perspective on the case that some don’t have.

“People want to know what experience I have, or how I’m qualified,” he writes on the site. “I believe I know EXACTLY how criminals think, and if I’m around YOU long enough, I’ll probably be able to figure out how you think too.”

In Hillegas, he sees himself, or the side of himself that choked his ex-wife in 2010. He told Kernel Mag’s Jesse Hicks:

“Weak men are dangerous men. Men who have been humiliated, who have nothing to lose, who have been rejected, all those things—that’s what makes a man dangerous. To a woman, particularly. …

I have always seen myself as kind of a weak person in a lot of ways. Certainly not your typical alpha male or whatever. And I began to see Ryan [Hillegas] that way, too.”

But seeing your worst self in someone else is not evidence, so what other evidence is there to support his Hillegas theory? According to the posts on his website, Luke claims that, as Halbach’s boyfriend for half a decade, Hillegas likely had access to her cellphone information and voicemail and would be able to track her whereabouts. (At trial, Hillegas testified that he had to guess Halbach’s password to access her online account.) Hillegas was a nurse and might have had access to Avery’s blood (presuming Avery happened to have blood taken at a hospital where Hillegas worked) and could have planted it in Halbach’s car before depositing it in the Avery salvage yard. Hillegas also had visible scratches on his hand in news footage from when Halbach’s loved ones were searching for her. Where oh where could the scratches have come from?!

Luke decided he would have an easier time investigating his theory from Manitowoc County, so he booked a flight from Portland, OR (where he lives), to Wisconsin and stayed for a week back in January. He posted on various message boards, trying to find people who knew Hillegas who could attest to his whereabouts on October 31, 2005 — the day Halbach went missing. It’s unclear whether he got any answers.

Luke also stopped by to see the Averys, and was initially welcomed by some of Steven’s kin — but they ended up calling the local police and having him escorted off the property. In a Q&A on Digg earlier this afternoon, Luke offered this tidbit about the day:

When I went to the Avery property and spoke with Chuck Avery, one of the first things I asked him is whether he knew the name Ryan Hillegas. He looked at me blankly and said no. … I also find it somewhat exculpatory that they called the sheriff’s office to have me escorted off the property. If I were among killers, I should think that they would be very interested in hearing in full all about a plausible theory that someone else did it.

My hunch is that the Averys don’t know who the hell Daniel Luke is and, rightfully, are probably not too keen about random dudes from Oregon stopping by to ask questions. Maybe Luke would have better luck presenting his theory to Avery’s attorneys. But he should probably make an appointment first.

Want to learn more about the Steven Avery case? Investigation Discovery is partnering with NBC News’ Keith Morrison to re-examine the evidence. STEVEN AVERY: INNOCENT OR GUILTY premieres Saturday, January 30 at 9/8c. The Front Page special will provide insight into unanswered questions from the Netflix series MAKING A MURDERER.

Read more: Digg, Kernel Mag

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