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The investigation of Steven Avery began on 5 November 2005, following the discovery of a missing person's car on his property.

Before the investigation

On Thursday 3 November 2005 Karen Halbach called Calumet County Sheriff’s Department (CASO) to report her daughter as missing. That same evening Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department (MTSO) was called by CASO and their aid was requested as one of the victim's contacts for that day, someone only known to them as "B. Janda" at that time lived in an area that fell under their jurisdiction.

It was decided that the missing person's three appointments for that day: Steven Schmitz, George Zipperer and "B. Janda" had to be checked. When the investigators learned B. Janda resided on Avery’s Auto Salvage, a cop named Andrew Colborn said he was acquaintances with Chuck and Earl Avery and he volunteered to meet Chuck.

Colborn arrived at the Avery salvage yard, parked his car near Chuck's residence, but as he stepped out of his vehicle he was intercepted by Steven Avery before he could meet with Chuck. Steven asked Colborn why he was there. Colborn explained a female photographer had gone missing and was looking for information on her last whereabouts. Steven replied he only "saw her out his window" and he "never talked to her". He also explained "B. Janda" would be his sister Barbara Janda, who lived next door to him. According to Steven Avery the photographer had left.

The next morning two MTSO officers, Lieutenant James Lenk and David Remiker were requested by CASO co-lead investigator Mark Wiegert to try and obtain Steven Avery's consent to do a quick search of his trailer to look for any obvious signs of the missing person. They knocked on both Steven's and his sister's door but neither answered. They were leaving the Avery property when in the distance they saw a golf cart approaching. Steven and his mother, Delores were on it.

Remiker explained to Steven that they were looking to find information about a female photographer who had been reported missing. According to Remiker, Steven looked very surprised. It felt to Remiker as if this was the first time Steven actually heard of the photographer's disappearance. Steven explained to Lenk and Remiker that the missing person had come over, took photos of the red van and he then took her inside his trailer where he paid her and gave her an AutoTrader magazine. She then left. Steven gave consent to search his trailer, which the two officers did for about 5 minutes and then left.

Silly enough, Steven, being a felon, actually let the investigators search his residence with his .22 caliber rifle hanging in plain view on a gunrack in his bedroom. In Wisconsin a felon is not allowed to possess a firearm.

Later that Friday a relative of the missing person, David Beach, visited the Avery property. He described going into some sort of garage building where there were two people, of which one he later recognized to be Steven Avery. He asked Steven about the missing photographer and Steven confirmed she had been at the salvage yard on Monday. Steven said he took her to behind the garage where she took photos of a vehicle. She then left.

Investigation

On Saturday 5 November two volunteer searchers, Pam and Nikole Sturm entered the salvage yard to look for anything that might help in their search for their relative, the missing photographer. While most of the Avery's were in Crivitz during the weekend, Steven's brother Earl remained at the yard. Pam and Nikole asked Earl permission to search the yard and he granted them permission. He made a comment about the road being muddy, which arguably triggered Pam to head up and search the berm first, where, after about 30 minutes of searching, she found a Toyota RAV4 vehicle. It was covered with branches and wooden plates. She called CASO and was transferred to the sheriff who then summoned investigators to the Avery salvage yard.