MANITOWOC, Wis. -- A man who served 18 years in prison for a sexual assault he didn't commit was charged yesterday with murdering a young woman who vanished after going to his salvage yard on a photography assignment.
Investigators searching for 25-year-old Teresa Halbach found charred bone fragments and teeth in a burn pit behind Steven Avery's garage at the salvage yard, and preliminary tests identified the remains as Halbach's, authorities said.
Avery was charged with murder and mutilation of a corpse. He was jailed on $500,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Dec. 6.
Avery, 43, has denied any knowledge of Halbach's disappearance. He has repeatedly said he is being set up because of his pending $36 million lawsuit against the county for the wrongful conviction.
Halbach, a freelance photographer, disappeared Oct. 31 after going to the Avery family's auto salvage business to photograph a minivan that was for sale. Her sport utility vehicle was later found at the salvage yard.
Avery said he saw Halbach that day and paid her $40 in cash, according to court papers.
Investigators found Avery's and Halbach's blood inside her SUV, and her vehicle key, with Avery's DNA on it, was hidden in Avery's bedroom, according to court papers.
Investigators said they also found handcuffs and leg irons in Avery's trailer and buckets that appeared to have been used to distribute burned remains.
The charge carries a mandatory life sentence. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
Avery was convicted of rape in 1985 and was sentenced to 32 years in prison. He was freed in 2003 after DNA exonerated him.