Where Is Penny Beerntsen Now? ‘Making A Murderer’ Spotlights Her Past, But Her Present Is Inspiring
While the crime at the center of Netflix's Making a Murderer is the death of Teresa Halbach, Steven Avery's exoneration of the sexual assault of Penny Beerntsen is just as important. It sets up the entire question of if Avery is being set up for the murder of Halbach, or, if someone who had second chance at life really threw that all away by committing a gruesome murder. Beerntsen's case creates question, but one question for those questions for viewers of the show is where is Penny Beerntsen now?
Netflix shows us that, though Avery was originally convicted for Beerntsen's sexual assault, he was eventually released after DNA evidence exonerated him from the crime (only after spending 18 years behind bars). According to a speech Beerntsen gave in 2004, that wasn't an easy time for her. She says that she became severely depressed and even had suicidal thoughts at times after her attack, and, once Avery was exonerated, she still struggled since she felt helpless.
But, Beerntsen was able to take her tragic experience and help others. According to the same speech, she started working with the Restorative Justice Movement. She also trained as a mediator in victim-offender meditation. Another thing she did was go to prisons and speak to inmates. She says in her speech that her real assailant, Gregory Allen, once even tried to come to one of her classes before he was ultimately jailed for her assault.
I speak regularly at Green Bay Correctional in a class called Challenges and Possibilities. It's a voluntary program, and I found out later that Gregory Allen, knowing that I would be a speaker, had requested to be in the next class, which was later in September of 2003.
According to an article on The Forgiveness Project, Penny Beerntsen had contact with Steven Avery. She documents that the two hugged after she apologized for misidentifying him as her attacker in 1985, in which he said, "Don't worry, Penny; it's over." All of these interviews and speeches occurred before Avery was arrested for the murder of Teresa Halbach.
By 2005, Beerntsen moved to the Chicagoland area with her family, and it appears, as of 2013, they moved back to Wisconsin. There's no doubt that Beerntsen has been through a lot in her life. Being sexually assaulted, choosing a man from a lineup only to learn 18 years later you were wrong in identifying him, creating a sort-of relationship with him once he is exonerated, only to learn he has been accused and convicted of murdering another woman? That's a lot to deal with, but hopefully Penny Beerntsen continues to stay strong and use her experiences to teach others it's possible to overcome tragedy in life, no matter how great.
Images: Netflix (2)