Where Steven Avery's kids are now

The name Steven Avery has long been notorious in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, but when Netflix released a crime documentary about his decades-long battle with the justice system, he became a global sensation. In 1985, Avery was convicted for the rape of prominent local woman Penny Beerntsen, who was attacked while out for a jog near her home. 18 years later, DNA evidence matched a hair found on Beernsten with Gregory Allen, a felon who bore some resemblance to Avery. "My testimony sent an innocent person to prison," Beernsten wrote in an article published by The Marshall Project. "I absolutely wanted the earth to swallow me."

Just two years after his release, Avery was charged with the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. The shady circumstances surrounding his arrest and subsequent imprisonment were the main focus of Making a Murderer, the Emmy-winning docu-series that gripped the world in December 2015. The filmmakers argued that Avery had once again been wrongly convicted, portraying the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department as "unprofessional, corrupt and fueled by revenge," as Wisconsin newspaper the Post Crescent put it. 

What Making a Murderer didn't do was speak to Avery's stepson and four biological children about how these cases had affected them. While the majority have understandably kept low profiles, some of them have revealed details of what life has been like for the Avery family. One thing's for sure — it's no picnic. Here's where Steven Avery's kids are now.

They rarely visit him in prison

Avery met his soon-to-be wife, Lori Mathiesen, in 1982 when he was just 19 years old (via Heavy). "She was pretty," Avery said during Making a Murderer. "Beautiful, that's what I thought. She had a good head on her shoulders. She was making it on her own." Mathiesen had a son from a previous relationship, whom Avery happily took on as his own. Before long they were husband and wife, and within the space of three years, they had four children of their own: girls Rachel and Jennifer, followed by twin boys Steven Jr. and Bill. However, Avery wouldn't get to see any of them grow up.

During the 18 years that Avery was wrongly jailed for the rape of Penny Beerntsen, he was only able to have contact with his kids during visiting hours. This has continued to be the case during his imprisonment for the murder of Teresa Halbach. However, according to a former fiancée, his children rarely come to see him nowadays. "When he was in Boscobel, his daughter Jenny came a couple of times but other than that, his kids don't come," Sandra Greenman (who previously got engaged to Avery while he was behind bars, but broke it off when he refused to accept her Christian faith) told the Daily Mail. "They don't know him. They didn't grow up with him."

Bill thought he was 'a pretty good guy'

Neither of Avery's daughters have courted media attention since their father became notorious, and his stepson has also kept his head down. However, his twin sons have been willing to discuss the impact that their dad's ongoing battle with the law has had on them personally. Bill and Steven Jr. were just 10 days old when Avery was jailed for rape in 1985, meaning they've spent the vast majority of their lives without a father. Bill was the first to break the radio silence in 2009, when he sat down for an interview with FOX 11 two years after Avery was sent back to prison for the murder of Teresa Halbach.

"It really doesn't phase me 'cause ... that's all I know and you can't miss nothing you never had," Bill, who was 23 years old at the time, said. He and his twin brother were both serving in the military when Avery went on trial for murder, but he remembers visiting his dad with his siblings when they were still kids. "He was a pretty good guy," Bill recalled. "He always wanted us by the table so he could collaborate with us and everything and just always talk to us ... If we'd go out into another room he'd want us to come back so he would actually get the chance to see us, but those are really the only memories I have of him."

The twins cut ties when prison visits turned violent

Bill didn't explain why he and his brother stopped visiting their dad when he spoke to FOX 11, but we got a much deeper insight into Avery's twin sons when they sat down with Crime Watch Daily in 2016. They agreed to the interview on the condition that it was conducted by Melissa Moore, the daughter of Keith Hunter Jesperson, a.k.a. the Happy Face Killer. 

During the interview, Moore asked Steven Jr. what memories he had of those early prison visits. "I remember him giving us hugs and kisses," he said. "I think the visitation was like three hours or something; I mean, you can't really build much of a bond on a three-hour visitation once a month." According to Steven Jr., his and Bill's relationship with Avery deteriorated when they started to get a little older, saying, "Me and my brother, we had ADHD, so we never sat still; always bugging other inmates during their visitations with their family. My dad ended up getting upset, so he spanked us."

Was this just old-fashioned discipline, or was Avery out of control? "A little bit of both, in a way," Bill said. "I was just tired of it, being young and to know you're going to go up there and get spanked." The twins revealed that a threatening letter Avery allegedly sent to their mother was the final straw. Steven Jr. said, "If you love somebody you don't threaten them like that."

Living with the Avery name

When the first season of Making a Murderer was released in 2015, the day-to-day lives of Steven Avery's kids changed forever. It's now difficult for them to go anywhere without facing questions from strangers, but the sad fact is that they've been dealing with local critics for a long, long time. Bill was the first to allude to this, revealing what it was like to live in Wisconsin with the Avery name. "If we go buy a pack of smokes and they card us, they would see it and see our name and be like, 'Oh, so you're an Avery?'" Bill told FOX 11. "It happens quite often, actually."

When their dad was exonerated after 18 years behind bars, it was a sweet reprieve for the boys. "My last name got better," Steven Jr. told Crime Watch Daily. "Once he got exonerated, a lot of people in a sense, like, joined our side ... It felt nice." However, when Avery was arrested again, the problems came back. Steven Jr. confirmed that this unfair treatment was still going on in 2016, saying, "A lot of people associate it with, like, we're a bunch of trouble makers, we're, like, bad people, we don't care about the law." He added, "The arrogance of people are just like, 'The sins of the father fall on the son,' which it shouldn't be like that."

They struggle to get work

Both Bill and Steven Jr. Avery claim that being the son of a convicted murderer has severely limited their employment opportunities over the years. While both brothers served in the Army — Steven Jr. did one tour in Iraq, and Bill completed two — finding regular civilian jobs has apparently been a little tricky. "It's extremely hard now to get a job without being ridiculed, or just showing our ID without somebody looking up at us and expecting us to pull a gun out or something," Bill told FOX 11 in 2009, just a year after he left the military and returned home to Manitowoc County.

Seven years later, Bill's brother confirmed that their struggle to hold down jobs was ongoing with no end in sight. According to Steven Jr., the word on the Manitowoc grapevine was that some businesses had blacklisted the Avery boys, refusing to even consider them for positions. "Me and my brother, we applied for this security firm. We were more than qualified for it," he told Melissa Moore on Crime Watch Daily. "This is all hearsay, but one of the main guys that works there was like, 'It'll be a cold day in hell before they ever get hired.'"

What do they think of Making a Murderer?

The Avery family has been under an intense spotlight ever since Making a Murderer brought Steven Avery's case to the attention of the wider world. For Avery's twin sons, the buzz caused by the hugely successful docu-series has been bittersweet. "It sucks having everything out in the open like that," Steven Jr. told Crime Watch Daily. "At the same point, it's good 'cause a lot of people get to see ... a little bit of a bigger picture." 

Neither of the twins had actually watched Making a Murderer before their interview with Melissa Moore, who brought a laptop along so they could finally see what all the fuss was about. They watched a scene from the first episode that covered a letter exchange between their mom and dad, in which Avery promised the mother of his children that he'd kill her if she didn't bring the kids to see him. Bill had "mixed feelings" about what he saw. "I care a lot for my mom, so it kinda makes me look at him different," he said. Steven Jr. added, "I agree with him. He says he loves her, that he always loved her, that he loves us — I know that he does, but he's also showing it in the wrong ways." From what they saw, both twins agreed that Making a Murderer ultimately portrayed Avery in what Moore called a "sympathetic light."

Do they think he's guilty?

It's a question all the Avery kids have no doubt faced countless times. When FOX 11 asked Bill if his dad was guilty of the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2009, he said, "He could have did it, but I don't think he did. I think he was just more or less framed from somebody." He sang the same tune when he opened up during his Crime Watch Daily interview seven years later, pointing to the multi-million dollar payout Avery was due from his prior wrongful conviction. "I actually thought he was innocent. 'Cause with me, if I was getting that much money, I wouldn't do anything at all ... It just makes no sense to me." 

Sadly, the true circumstances surrounding the death of Teresa Halbach may never become clear — something Steven Jr. has come to terms with. "I have no idea," he said when Melissa Moore asked him if he thought his dad had killed the photographer. "I mean, only one person can answer that and that would be Teresa, but she can't answer it no more." What he does believe, however, is that something wasn't quite right about the way authorities came after Avery. "The only thing I know is that the entire case was very shady," Steven Jr. said. "It's clear that there was corruption."

Avery allegedly flew into 'full rage mode' at times

While Bill made a sound argument for his father's innocence during the Crime Watch Daily special, he did concede that there may be a small chance his dad did murder Teresa Halbach. Avery's son previously claimed that he'd cut ties with his father after he started spanking him during prison visits. However, that was apparently just the tip of the iceberg when it came to his alleged violent outbursts. "I know he's got anger issues ... He'll just blow up and go into full rage mode," Bill told Melissa Moore, who in turn asked if it was therefore possible he went into rage mode with Halbach. "Yeah, I guess," Bill replied.

When it comes to the 18 years Avery was wrongfully locked up for the rape of Penny Beerntsen, however, Bill is 100 percent behind his estranged father. "I actually feel bad for him," he said. "Because I think about if that would happen to me, just how, you know, mad and angry [I'd be] ... And to know all it took was a DNA test. I think he deserved to actually be set free a lot earlier." According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, Gregory Allen (the man who committed the violent rape for which Avery was imprisoned) became eligible for parole in 2016, two decades into a 60-year sentence.

They want corrupt officials to face jail time

When Penny Beerntsen found out that she had pointed the finger at an innocent man after her rape in 1985, she was mortified, but admitted she'd made a huge mistake — something the law has apparently flat-out refused to do. "One of the things that really troubled me is that I was one of the only people who apologized to Steve," she said (via The Marshall Project). "It would have been nice if the prosecutor and sheriff had said, 'Actually, we all got it wrong.' I felt like I was the only one taking any responsibility."

Avery's kids, of course, have every right to be angry over such a gross miscarriage of justice. However, their grudge isn't with the state itself, but rather with a select group of people they believe ruined their dad's life. "I'm not angry with the state," Steven Jr. told Crime Watch Daily. "It's not the county or it's not the state that did it; it's the people that are in charge of it. They wasted 18 years of a man's life for no reason, because they didn't want to do their jobs correctly. If they did plant evidence, if they did do all this stuff, that's really wrong. To take away a man's life? They deserve to [serve time]."

Will they ever let Avery back into their lives?

Bill and Steven Jr. Avery were teenagers when their dad was initially exonerated and got out of prison. However, Steven Avery was back behind bars before they could truly make up for lost time. The truth is that none of Avery's children can claim to really know him at this stage. "Maybe I'll try to have a relationship with him; I don't know yet at this point," Steven Jr. told Crime Watch Daily, adding, "He deserves to get to know me. I am his son, even though I don't look at him as a father. I might never will. I mean, I'm a 30-year-old man, it's kinda late in life to get a huge bond like that, but I'm willing to ... give it a shot." What are Bill's feelings toward his father nowadays? "I kinda, in a way, have none," he said. "I just see him as a complete stranger. It just kinda feels like I don't have a father." 

All of this could change in the future should Avery's murder conviction be overturned through the efforts of his new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, who's well-known for getting wrongful convictions reversed. 2018's Making a Murderer: Part 2 focused on her attempts to prove Avery's innocence. According to Avery's friend and former fiancée, Sandy Greenman, it's only a matter of time, as she told the Daily Mail, "Kathleen is 100 percent sure she will free him."