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The burned remains of the victim were found in a burn pit behind Steven Avery’s garage, and in a burn barrel behind the next door Janda residence. In a quarry pile south-southwest of Avery’s Auto Salvage more bones were found, of which several were burned. The defense argued these could've been the victim’s.

Analysis

  • What was recovered from Avery's burn pit was about 40%-60% of the entire skeleton of the victim. In other words, either more than half or less than half.
  • The defense witness Scott Fairgrieve said that the location with the most bones tends to be the location where the bones were moved to.
  • One or more pieces of every bone in the victim's body were recovered from the burn pit.
  • The victim's mitochondrial DNA was found in the burned remains.
  • Pieces of teeth were found in the burn pit.
  • Pieces of jeans were found in the burn pit.
  • Bones were found in the Janda burn barrel. These bones were noticeably larger than the bones found in the burn pit.
  • The burn pit was the only area which contained tiny, brittle pieces of bone and teeth. The burn barrel contained only noticeably larger bones.
  • According to the analysis of the State's expert Leslie Eisenberg and Kathleen Zellner’s expert John DeHaan the bones were burned in an outside fire.
  • The skull of the victim had two entrance defects which seemed to have been caused by a high-velocity projectile such as a bullet. The skull had no exit defects, indicating the bullets never left.
  • Inside the victim’s skull remnants of bullet lead were found.

Connections to other pieces of evidence

The burned remains at trial

The defense

The defense argued that the burned remains of the victim were originally burned somewhere else than Steven Avery’s burn pit, but were later planted there. As an alternative primary location they offer the quarry pile south-southwest of Avery’s Auto Salvage, where numerous bones, burned and unburned, were found.

The prosecution

The prosecution claimed the burned remains were burned behind Steven Avery's garage, in his burn pit. Their reason for claiming so is that there was only one location where very tiny, brittle bone fragments, probably the result of the breaking the bones or the calcination process, were found, which was the burn pit. The quarry pile and Janda burn barrel did not have such brittle fragments.

The burn pit was also the only location with brittle teeth fragments and pieces of the victim's Daisy Fuentes jeans.

The prosecution further explained that in the Janda burn barrel only larger pieces of bone were found. If it was used to transport remains it would've contained tiny brittle fragments as well, said the prosecution.

The burned remains in Zellner's appeal

One of Kathleen Zellner's experts, John DeHaan, a reknowned arson forensic scientist, provided an affidavit for Zellner's 2017 motion. In it he expressed why he believes the burn pit was not the location where the victim's body was burned. 

DeHaan does agree with the State's expert Leslie Eisenberg that the body was burned outside, in an open-field fire, but believes the damage done to the larger bones could hardly have been done in four hours, which he believes is how long the bonfire lasted. 

Critical points

  • DeHaan bases his statement on a four hour time limit. Apparently he either learned from the files he was given, or was told by Zellner, that there was a bonfire for only four hours. At Brendan Dassey’s trial however, Brendan said there already was a fire going on when he was invited by Steven at about 7PM. His brother Blaine said he saw a bonfire when arrived back home at 11PM ~ 11:30PM. 
  • Though DeHaan does say a body couldn't have been burned to such a degree in a rather shallow burn pit within 4 hours, he also says that if the body was burned, outside, in a burn barrel, it would've been possible in about 3.5 hours.
  • In his affidavit DeHaan makes no mention of the burned remains in the Janda burn barrel. 
  • DeHaan also makes no mention of how the hacking and breaking of the bones might speed up the burning process.
  • Though DeHaan claims there are some larger bones in the human body that couldn't have been burned within 4 hours, to the degree he saw in the trial exhibits and other photos, it seems he was unaware that the larger bones he described were all found in the Janda burn barrel, the barrel he makes no mention of in his affidavit.

Timeline of the burned remains

  • October 31, 2005
    • 14:30 Teresa Halbach arrives at Avery’s Auto Salvage.
    • 7:00 Steven Avery invites Brendan Dassey to a bonfire. The prosecution claims the victim was burned in this bonfire.
    • 23:00~23:30 Blaine Dassey sees Steven Avery tending to the bonfire. After 4 and a half hours it is still going on.