In the few weeks since its release, the Netflix documentary Making A Murderer has engrossed viewers with the case of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, both convicted in 2007 of killing photographer Teresa Halbach. Avery and Dassey insist they are innocent. Like The Jinx and the first season of Serial before it, Making A Murderer is provoking a great deal of conversation about the American criminal justice system. It's also generating renewed interest in several of the key players from the docuseries, like Halbach's ex-boyfriend who also served as a witness during Avery's trial. So, where is Ryan Hillegas now, nearly a decade after the events portrayed the Netflix series?
Hillegas now lives a relatively private life. Though the release of the documentary means that his name is all over Twitter conversations and Reddit theory threads, only the most basic current information about Hillegas can be found online. His most recent documented place of employment is the Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee, where Hillegas started as a registered nurse, according to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Currently, he seems to work as an outpatient therapist. Bustle reached out to Hillegas, but has not yet heard back.
Hillegas and Halbach both attended Hilbert High School together, and then the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point and Green Bay, respectively. Halbach graduated summa cum laude, according to her obituary. As seen in Making a Murderer, Hillegas testified during Avery's trial that he and Halbach had dated for "five years or so" stretching across high school and college.
Because of Hillegas' long-standing relationship with Halbach, and their friendship afterwards, Avery's lawyer Jerome Buting took issue with Hillegas seemingly never being considered as suspect. During the trial, as seen in the documentary, Buting addressed the topic.
In most cases, the people who are close to a victim are the ones who are in fact the killers. And, in this case, in every single instance, all those people who are close to her, the police never investigated any of them. They never from the minute the case was reported considered — seriously considered — the possibility that Teresa Halbach was killed by somebody she knew.
Special Agent Tom Fassbender claimed that Avery wasn't the only suspect investigated: "We go into an investigation and you're not gonna lock and load. You're gonna listen to all the intelligence and information being brought in, look at all the evidence. The object is to allow the evidence and the facts that are uncovered as you go along to lead you to the most logical suspect."
However, in the series, Hillegas seems to admit that the sheriff's department didn't explore him as a suspect when he stated on the stand that he'd never been asked for an alibi for the night of Halbach's murder. "So, it's fair to say you weren't in any way treated as a suspect that you could tell?" Buting asked Hillegas, to which Hillegas said, "That's correct."
An alleged image of Hillegas in his college newspaper from Oct. 31, 2002 — exactly three years to the day before Halbach's death — shows him answering the question: "What scares you the most?" Hillegas, identified as a senior majoring in Biology answered, "Women, because they're evil."
Other users pointed out that there's no context for the quote and using it as "proof" of to make allegations against Hillegas is incredibly unfair. "Man, I hope no one ever digs up all the stupid sh*t I said in high school," said Reddit user Dangermommy. "This doesn't say much about him at all... Knowing myself I would probably have said something like this as a joke," added TheBiscuiteer, another Reddit user.
In the docuseries, Hillegas said the last time he saw Halbach was Sunday, Oct. 30 2005, the day before she went missing. "I think I was dropping something off for Scott [Halbach's roommate] and [Halbach] was sitting there at her computer," Hillegas said on the stand, as seen in the docuseries. "So the last time you actually saw Teresa was Sunday?" Buting asked. "Yes," Hillegas confirmed.
Additionally, Hillegas was never named as a suspect by the defense. Avery filed a post-trial motion in 2009 with a list of other people Avery alleged to be suspects. Hillegas' name was nowhere on the lengthy list.
It seems like Hillegas has chosen to ignore what people are saying about him and focus on the true victim of Making a Murderer: Halbach. On Dec. 23, 2015, Hillegas updated his Facebook profile picture to be one of his ex-girlfriend. Based on his Facebook page featuring Teresa Halbach, and the fact that he lives in the same place and is friends with Mike Halbach, the page seems real, although Bustle reached out for comment. Though he didn't add any comment, the message was clear: He's choosing to pay tribute to Halbach's memory during this difficult time.
Images: Netflix (3)