Did Dr. Phil McGraw blow up the one good thing Steven Avery had going for him?
For the past several days the Dr. Phil show has been hyping a pair of interviews with the subject of Netflix’s documentary series Making a Murderer and his brand-new fiancée Lynn Hartman. But since those episodes taped late last week, it appears their relationship has ended.
Avery, currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Teresa Halbach at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin, revealed his engagement to Hartman, who began writing to him in prison earlier this year, last week. But then, just before Dr. Phil aired part one of a two-part special on their relationship, he ended it through a Facebook post on his “official family discussion page.”
In the statement, shared via another former fiancée, Avery referred to Hartmann as a “golddigger” who was only interested in him for “money and publicity,” claiming she received “at least $5,000” for the Dr. Phil special along with additional payments for other media appearances. The Daily Beast reached out to CBS for confirmation, but did not immediately hear back from the network that produces McGraw’s show.
These latest revelations cast an awkward light on the episodes that aired Monday and Tuesday afternoon, in which Hartman can be seen gushing over her love for her “sweetest little teddy bear” whom she believes — like so many others who watched the series — was wrongly convicted of Halbach’s murder, just as he was wrongly convicted for rape decades earlier.
"I haven't been in love my whole life. It's not the same as the others. Everything is all different with her," Avery told Dr. Phil at one point, suggesting that he did not have genuine feelings for yet another former fiancée Jodi Stachowski, who stood by him for the trial depicted in Making a Murderer. In a TV interview just a couple of weeks after the show premiered, Stachowski said she no longer trusted Avery, saying “behind closed doors, he’s a monster.”
Confronted with footage of Stachowski saying she now believes Avery is guilty of the murder as well as physically assaulting her, Hartman was quick to defend her man, saying people “deserve second chances.” For his part, McGraw suggested Hartman was attempting to “rationalize” any negative things she has learned about Avery and spent much of the second half of Tuesday’s show trying to talk her out of marrying the convicted murderer, calling her “naive” for thinking there’s no chance he’s guilty.
“Is their love already on the rocks?” McGraw asked viewers at one point, introducing a taped segment in which Hartman is shown awaiting a call from Avery that never comes. This led him to “surprise” Hartman with a live phone call from her fiancé. She instantly burst into tears when she heard Avery’s now-iconic voice and laughed when Avery said he doesn’t believe she’s with him for the “fame.”
Avery denied physically abusing Stachowski and when McGraw asked him point blank if he murdered Teresa Halbach, he maintained his innocence just as strongly as he did throughout Making a Murderer. He also expressed gratitude over the recent news that a federal judge overturned the conviction of his mentally-challenged nephew Brendan Dassey. “The truth is coming out and sooner or later,” he said. “All the truth will come out.”
There were laughs all around at the suggestion by Avery that Brad Pitt will play him in a fictional film version of his story, but it’s not as far-fetched as it seems. If, post-divorce, Pitt were to put on a significant amount of weight and nail Avery’s unique Wisconsin dialect, it could be the type of role that delivers him a still-elusive Academy Award.
Enough ongoing fascination surrounds Avery’s case that Making a Murderer, which became a sensation on Netflix when it premiered last December, is set to return for a second season. Avery’s current lawyer aims to use new forensic evidence to prove that the blood found in Halbach’s car was planted by police, which could ultimately lead to his second high-profile exoneration.