Steven Avery sentencing

Steven Avery is escorted to the Manitowoc County Courthouse for his sentencing June 1, 2007, in Manitowoc. Avery, convicted of murdering a photographer 3 1/2 years after his release from prison for a rape he did not commit, was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance for parole.

Associated Press archives

MANITOWOC -- Teresa Halbach made a video diary three years before she died - never imagining her words and easy smile would be considered Friday by the judge deciding whether the man convicted of her murder should go away for life.

"Let's say I died tomorrow," Halbach, a photographer, said into the camera. "I don't think I will. I think I have a lot more to do. ... I just want people I love to know that whenever I die, that I was happy. That I'm happy with what I did with my life."

Steven Avery, 44, was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance for parole.

Avery was convicted in March of killing the 25-year-old Halbach on Halloween 2005 near his family's rural auto salvage lot. He also was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 10 years on that charge.

Manitowoc County Circuit Judge Patrick Willis reviewed Avery's history of convictions for burglaries, threatening a woman with a gun and dousing a cat with gasoline before throwing it in a bonfire, before sentencing him. The offenses escalated over time, Willis said, and the latest one - Halbach's murder - was a case of premeditated murder.

"You are probably the most dangerous individual ever to set foot in this courtroom," Willis said Friday. "From what I see, nothing in your life suggests that society would ever be safe from your behavior."

Avery spent 18 years in prison for rape before he was freed in 2003 after DNA samples proved another man committed that crime.

His attorneys argued during his five-week trial that Avery was set up by the sheriff's department that wrongly put him away, in retaliation for a civil lawsuit he filed against it. Avery has maintained his innocence and in April told The Associated Press he was confident he would be exonerated for a second time, as long as he kept his private lawyers.

He spoke briefly Friday, saying he feels sorry for Halbach's family and their friends - as well as his family and himself.

"It's hurting everybody," he said.

But he said once again that he would eventually prove his innocence.

"Teresa Halbach, I didn't kill. I am innocent for all of this," he said. "I figured later on I will prove myself innocent."

His lawyers, Dean Strang and Jerome Buting, lost a motion for a new trial last month but said they plan to consider other avenues to exonerate Avery, including other motions and an appeal. Strang said Friday he wasn't sure if he and Buting would stay on the case or if Avery would have new lawyers.

Four months after Avery was arrested, authorities charged his 17-year-old nephew, Brendan Dassey, after he said the pair raped and killed Halbach and then burned her body. He later recanted his statement but was convicted in April of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree sexual assault and mutilation of a corpse. His sentencing is Aug. 2.

Strang asked the judge to grant Avery the chance at parole "to preserve the prospects of progress" for him.

But five of Halbach's relatives urged the judge not to grant any possibility of parole.

Halbach's younger brother. Mike Halbach, who has been stoic as family spokesman, broke down when he read his statement. He said he didn't choose this heartbreak.

"Steven Avery chose my sister, Teresa," he said. "He thought only of himself. He chose to end her life. He chose to redeem his sins inside himself and point blame to everyone else."

Halbach's family sobbed Friday as prosecutors played Halbach's video. Mike Halbach later said the family found it after she died.

In the video, she also said if she dies early she wished she could have been a mother.

"Because that's the one thing I've always known that I want to be - a mom. But there's a reason for everything. And I will be a good mom one day. I will."

"As long as I'm happy," she says with a smile.

She said she loved hugs, her family, God, making people laugh, traveling, people giving her compliments and music groups the Beatles and No Doubt.

"I love knowing that I like who I am," she said. "I love taking pictures. I love holding a camera in my hand. I love kids. I love babies.

"I don't hate anyone. I love a lot of people. I feel loved."

There was no show of emotion from the Halbachs or Avery when the judge read his decision.

Mike Halbach said later that he was relieved.

"He got what he deserved," Halbach said. "He murdered my sister. There's no doubt about that. He should pay for it."

Strang said he was sorry Avery would not have a chance at parole.

"It's a slow death," he said.

Strang said he did not know what happened the day Halbach was murdered, but he believes in Avery.

"There's more good in this man than there is bad," he said.

I hope we never hear from Steven Avery again.


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