Category: Documentaries

Diane Schuler and The 2009 Taconic State Parkway Crash

It is one of my personal goals to watch as many true crime/weird/creepy documentaries as possible. While on my way to reaching my documentary and chill goal, I came across this one. 

This case isn’t exactly a murder in the first-degree sense, even though charges were going to be filed, I still thought it belonged here.

Regardless of what was originally concluded, others might feel that this case is justified as a murder based on the circumstances alone. The HBO documentary, There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Diane, tells the story of the 2009 Taconic State Parkway crash and Diane Schuler the woman behind the wheel who was responsible for the death of eight people, including Schuler herself, her two-year-old daughter, her nieces, ages eight, seven, and five, a father and his son, and their friend. 

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As someone who writes a blog with the word murder in it, I have watched, read, and written about a lot of horrifying things. The majority of them fail to bother me, except this one. 

Aunt Diane is one of the most polarizing documentaries in recent years and is constantly listed as a “must see” and “disturbing”. The documentary rightfully belongs on both those lists, while it does contain graphic content, including photos of the horrific accident, the most disturbing part of the story is what happened after the crash. 

The crash soon became national news. Sadly, what should have been just another highway collision statistic became a case of denial and debate over toxicology reports.

On Sunday, July 26, 2009, around 9:30 a.m. Diane Schuler left a campground in Parksville, New York driving a minivan registered to her brother, Warren Hance. Her husband, Daniel Schuler left the campground several hours later in a pickup truck. The families had been on a camping trip for the weekend. 

Four hours later, everyone in the minivan would be dead, except the Schuler’s five-year-old son, Bryan who survived with brain damage. 

Diane stopped at a McDonald’s and a gas station before the crash. Video surveillance from the gas station shows that Diane went inside. The clerk working that day stated that she asked for some OTC pain reliever. In the weeks leading up to her death, Diane had been suffering from a toothache. She left the gas station purchasing nothing. Witnesses later came forward and reported seeing Diane pulled over on the side on the side of the road, bent over as if she were vomiting. She was soon seen driving erratically. 

Around 1:00, Schuler’s niece called her father and told him “there’s something wrong with Aunt Diane.” She told her father that Diane was having trouble seeing. Thirty minutes later,  the crash occurred after Diane had been driving in the wrong direction on the road for 1.7 miles. 

 Police found an empty bottle of vodka in the wreck. Common sense says clearly Schuler had been drinking and driving. This is where the controversy comes in. If you don’t know the story, you are probably wondering what the hell is going on and what direction this is going in. 

Autopsy and toxicology reports showed that Schuler had a blood alcohol content over twice the legal limit in New York, including 6 grams of alcohol in her stomach that had yet to be digested. She also had high levels of TCH in her system. The high levels of TCH showed that she had used marijuana as recently as 15 minutes before the crash. 

During the documentary, the story is told in such a way which presents these findings as a shock to the viewer. Then, the proverbial bomb is dropped-both Diane’s husband and her sister-in-law admit that Diane did both drink and occasionally use marijuana. This was after they both denied and refused to believe that the autopsy and toxicology results were correct. Daniel Schuler claimed that Diane had either suffered a stroke, an aneurysm, heart attack, or another medical emergency. He even raised money on several occasions to have Diane’s tissue samples re-tested. Every lab came back with the same results. 

This case suddenly went from a drunk driving accident to a clear case of heavy denial in which the surviving members of the Schuler family keep making themselves look like jerks for denying that one of their own had a problem and refusing to believe what has been in front of them for almost ten years. Their insistence to prove everyone else wrong and keep bringing up the case has been painful for the surviving family members of the others killed in the crash. This is the part that bothers me. Denial and blind ignorance can be just as harmful as a gun. 

Aunt Diane is a good documentary and well made, but it doesn’t do the Schuler family any favors. Instead of painting a sympathetic portrait of a family tragedy and its aftermath, it accomplishes the exact opposite. It is by far the most frustrating and irritating documentary on any streaming channel. If you can think of another one, let me know. 

Regardless of the controversy surrounding this story, the documentary is worth a watch. You can find it on HBO Go and

A&E’s “The Killing Season” Looks At Serial Killers In 21st Century America

Documentary filmmakers Rachel Mills and Joshua Zeman are back again for another murder-filled look into the darkest corners of America with The Killing Season. If you haven’t seen Rachel and Joshua’s other documentaries Cropsey and Killer Legends, stop whatever you’re doing and go find them. They are spectacular, creepy as hell, and two of my favorite documentaries. These guys are great. Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills could make a documentary about my own boring life and I’d watch it.

Their follow-up docuseries on A&E (thank you Arts and Entertainment Channel for taking a break from Duck Dynasty to air something actually important), explores the unsolved case of the Long Island Serial Killer a.k.a LISK as well as potentially connected murders in Atlantic City, Daytona Beach, and Oklahoma. Eventually, Josh and Rachel find themselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico investigating the West Mesa Murders.

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Image via.

What Rachel and Josh uncover is terrifying. The biggest takeaway from their research and findings is that the once headline-stealing phenomenon of serial killers are being overlooked by the current criminal justice system.

It’s true, we don’t hear about serial killers as much mass shootings, cybercrimes, and terrorist attacks, which are without a doubt the most prolific and troubling crimes in our society today. In a way, it makes sense for law enforcement to be more concerned about these crimes versus serial killings, considering they are the biggest criminal threat we face.

I once read an article about how society reflects crime trends (I don’t remember the name and I couldn’t find it). If you Google crime trends and society, there are numerous results. Anyway, I believe this article to be true. If you compare the troubled culture of the 1970’s, the excessive culture of the 1980’s, and the narcissistic social media obsessed culture of today, it makes sense how society can impact the types of crimes committed, mainly murders. Think of killers like BTK, who hid their double life in the shadows while appearing as upstanding and normal members of society. Then, compare him to people like James Holmes and Dylann Roof, who outwardly appeared to be “off”.

Today, the famed serial killers of the last century are treated like celebrities. We’re fascinated by their horrific acts because we feel so far removed from them, in reality we aren’t. We can’t comprehend that people could commit the horrific acts these serial killers did. The media has glorified them into American icons. While mass shooters could be anyone you see every day, and it’s something we don’t want to think about. The media doesn’t glorify them-we fear and pity them.

Another thing that comes into play when exploring the crimes in The Killing Season is victimology. If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to guess you’re familiar with the types of victims the “classic” serial killers chose-every day people in suburbia or certain types fitting their M.O. (such as John Wayne Gacy and boys and Ted Bundy and long-haired brunette women). While mass murderer can strike anyone at any time, if they aren’t mission driven in their act.

The serial killers explored in The Killing Season have a different type of victim, those who can’t be easily tracked. Mainly sex workers and drug addicts working and sometimes living on the street. Sadly, this is another reason why these killings often go over-looked, which is also mentioned numerous times in The Killing Season.

Much like technology, serial killers are evolving and the criminal justice needs to evolve, too and realize this is still a problem.

 

“Making A Murderer” Theories

I’m doing a little self plagiarism with this one. I originally posted this on my personal blog/website about a year ago. I thought it was appropriate for A Murder Most Foul.

It’s been a little over a year since many of us binged Making A Murder on Netflix. Since then, it has become a phenomena. This documentary is important because not only does it show the scope of corruption in the United State’s justice system, but it also explores small town corruption and class which is something we need to talk about more. I’m not here to say all cops and small towns are bad, just that things like what happened in Making a Murderer probably happen all the time, but we don’t hear about it until this documentary took over our Netflix queues.

Don’t continue reading if you haven’t seen the series/don’t like spoilers. 

The thing that I found the most shocking about this series wasn’t the horrific crimes committed, but rather how the conspiracy against Steven Avery even happened in the first place. How can so many people work together to be so terrible and lie and not a single one of them slip up? It’s obvious Steven Avery is innocent and did not kill Teresa Halbach. I do agree with what one of Avery’s attorneys Dean Strang said. Not sure what the exact quote was but he said something like “I hope Steven is guilty because I hate to think an innocent man is sitting behind bars for something he didn’t do.”

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Accurate.

Since we know what happened to Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, everyone wants to know what exactly happened to Teresa Halbach?

As a person who has an M.S. in Criminal Justice and has written a murder mystery, my qualifications and experience have failed me when it comes to this. I have no idea who killed Teresa Halbach. Maybe no one else does either.

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Teresa Halbach

One of the most interesting parts of watching this series is looking into the various theories. As someone who loves fan and conspiracy theories, this post is something I’ve been looking forward to.

After some extended Internet research, I have compiled several MAM theories. Here they are listed from least to most likely.

5. Teresa Halbach isn’t dead. 

This is by far the most unlikely and far-fetched theory courtesy of Steven Avery’s own mother, Dolores. It makes sense she would convince herself of something like this considering everything that has happened to her son and family. Even though the criminal justice officials involved in this case are terrible people, it seems unlikely they would plant random bones to frame someone when there is more evidence in the case.

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Halbach’s car as it was found at the Avery Salvage Yard

4. Ryan Hillegas with help from her brother Mike Halbach

Halbach’s ex-boyfriend appeared sketchy on the stand. It doesn’t take a seasoned homicide detective to know those closest to the victim should be questioned first and are usually guilty. Neither Hillegas or Mike Halbach were treated as suspects or were questioned. The fact Hillegas was able to get into Teresa’s voicemail is majorly incriminating. Reports state Hillegas had stalker tendencies and another theory suggests he might have left threatening voicemails on her phone which is why he deleted her voicemails.   Mike Halbach is connected to Hillegas because the two were friends. The big case against Mike is that he mentioned “grieving” for Teresa before her body had even been recovered. Perhaps he was the one who slipped up?  The thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that neither one of them lived near the Avery property, which means they (or one of them) had to follow Teresa. These two rubbed me the wrong way from the start. The video below only reinforces my belief. Even with their odd behavior, I’m still not 100% convinced they killed Teresa, but they should have been further investigated and questioned.

3. Bobby Dassey and Scott Tadych

These two also seemed suspicious. Tadych is Bobby and Brendan’s stepfather. This theory claims Bobby Dassey and Tadych are the real murderers and Ryan Hillegas and Mike Halbach discovered Teresa’s car at the Avery Salvage Yard, called the police, and James Lenk and Andrew Colburn answered the call and proceeded to frame Steven Avery. The other part of the theory is that Mike and Ryan also were framing Avery for the crime. They knew Teresa was seen on the Avery property which is why they went snooping there in the first place. What this theory boils down to is that there were two Steven Avery frame jobs happening simultaneously.  The thought is pretty insane fills in some of the holes in the story, like who Lenk knew about Halbach’s car. Head over to this Reddit post for a better explanation. It’s a crazy theory. Then again, this whole situation is batshit so the original poster might be onto something.

The big thing that gives this theory credit is it goes along with what Steven Avery thinks happened. In 2009, Avery claimed he believed Bobby Dassey and Tadych were responsible for the murder. Tadych has a history of violence against women and was on the property the same time Teresa was murdered as was Bobby. The two men went hunting together that day and were each other’s alibis (huge red flag) as no one else knew where they were the afternoon of October 31 (when Teresa was murdered). Bobby said he showered before they went hunting and had scratches on his back which he blamed on a puppy. From what I’ve gathered hunting is hard and sweaty work so taking a shower before doesn’t seem logical. Teresa was also shot with a .22 rifle which Tadych and Bobby had that day.

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Pretty much.

This is where I think Brendan Dassey comes in. I do not think he is responsible but I feel like he knew or saw something. Brendan claims he was at home around the time of Teresa’s murder. It’s possible Brendan witnessed Teresa’s death or saw the aftermath. If this is true, then the statment his cousin Kayla Avery gave would not be a lie (as she confessed it was in court). Kayla originally told her school counselor she was worried about Brendan’s weight loss and that he told her he saw body parts in a fire. Brendan’s low I.Q. caused him to be easily manipulated by officials. Although I don’t think he is low functioning enough not to defend himself. Maybe he felt guilty because of whatever reason and didn’t have the mental capacity to fight back, or felt like he shouldn’t.

Considering Tadych, Bobby Dassey and everyone else in the Avery family were on the property that day, any of them could have seen (or been responsible for) Teresa’s murder.

2. Steven Avery

He did it and was framed. The police screwed up and here we are today. We don’t want to think Steven is guilty, but he could be. It’s simple, obvious and hopefully not true. This brings me back to Kayla. Check out her frist written statement. The spelling and writing are terrible, FYI. She clearly doesn’t like Steven and mentions she thinks Brendan “did something.” She also mentioned to her school counselor she was afraid because Steven asked one of her cousins to move a body, but never mentioned the cousin by name. Maybe she wasn’t lying after all?

  1. Steven’s brothers Charles and Earl

Steven himself has also said he believes one of his brothers could have killed Teresa. Considering they also lived on the Avery property and both had histories of sexual violence towards women. In 1999, Charles raped and tried to kill his wife. He was also known to make agressive and unwanted advances towards female customers at the Avery Salvage Yard. Charles was also jealous of Steven’s potential settlement he was supposed to get from his first wrongful conviction and of his then-girlfriend Jodi Stachowski. Jodi claimed Charles came into the house she shared with Steven with a shotgun and said she was “terrified of Chuckie”.

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Charles Avery

Earl, the youngest of the Avery brothers sexually assaulted his own daughters in 1995. He was also a hunter who would have access to weapons. Earl is only in a brief scene in the series, which makes him all the more suspicious. Steven himself cited “ [Earl] hid from police when they came to take a DNA sample on Nov. 9, 2005. When the investigators went to his home, he hid in an upstairs bedroom under some clothes.”

These theories here are the just the beginning. We might never know what truly happened to Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005.If you are interested in finding out more theories/ideas, Google is your friend. Be prepared to be taken down a rabbit hole. 

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