Investigators coerced Steven Avery's nephew into telling them the two raped, murdered and burned a young photographer, Avery said Friday in his first public comments since authorities said his 16-year-old nephew confessed to the crimes.
In a phone interview from the Calumet County jail, Avery told The Associated Press that Brendan Dassey's statements to investigators about the murder are not true and Dassey is not very smart.
"He's 16 years old and with the detective it don't take much ... to coerce him to say that stuff," he said. "You figure he can't even cut deer up ... he can't even do none of that."
Avery, 43, was charged in November with killing Teresa Halbach on Oct. 31.
He was released from prison in 2003 after spending 18 years there for a rape he didn't commit. DNA evidence proved another man committed the rape.
In the Halbach case, Avery originally was charged Nov. 15 with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse and possessing a firearm by a felon. But last month prosecutors said Dassey, who lives on the rural property that includes the family's salvage lot, admitted in a four-hour videotaped confession that he assisted his uncle in the Halloween crimes.
Additional charges of first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment were filed against Avery March 8.
Dassey's lawyer, Len Kachinsky, has said he likely will seek to have Dassey's statements to investigators thrown out.
Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel said investigators followed proper procedure and videotaped the entire interview and the confession, per state law. The judge will make the final decision whether the tape should be allowed in the trial, he said.
Avery, a father of four who is engaged, said he has never raped or murdered anyone and he gets choked up when he sees murders on television. He said if he took a human life, he couldn't sleep at night.
"I help people; I don't destroy people," he said. "Somebody needs help I'll help them. I'll do without so I can help people."
According to a criminal complaint, Dassey told investigators he helped assault and kill Halbach after he went to his uncle's trailer Oct. 31 to deliver some mail.
Halbach's family reported her missing a few days later. Volunteer searchers found her vehicle partially hidden in the salvage yard, and DNA found in the burn pit matched Halbach, authorities said. Her ignition key was found in Avery's bedroom.
Dassey faces charges of being party to first-degree intentional homicide, mutilation of a corpse and sexual assault with use of a dangerous weapon.
Dassey's lawyer said Dassey told investigators he participated in the crimes because he feared Avery would kill him. Avery said that was not true and he has never done anything to Dassey to make the teen fear him.
"I certainly wasn't surprised by what he said," family spokesman Mike Halbach said Friday night. "The whole investigation, he's been blaming other people, blaming police. This is just a continuation of this. I obviously don't take it as truth. I don't believe anything he says at this point."
Last month, special prosecutor Ken Kratz filed a document in court that said Avery talked to fellow prison inmates about plans to abduct, rape and kill women, and he showed them diagrams of a torture chamber he wanted to build.
Avery said that is not true and prison inmates have ulterior motives: "They want to get out of prison."