Penny Beerntsen, the woman who accused Steven Avery of sexual assault, wrote about her experience and her relationship with Avery for The Marshall Project, where she calls her emotions toward Avery “complicated.”
Beerntsen’s case is documented in Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which follows how Beerntsen first deemed Avery the attacker after looking at a photo lineup and then an in-person lineup of potential perpetrators. Years later, DNA evidence proved that Gregory Allen was Beernsten’s actual attacker, and Avery was set free. But just two years after that, Avery was again accussed of a violent crime — this time for the murder of Teresa Halbach. He was convicted of killing Halbach and is currently serving a life sentence.
In Beerntsen’s piece, she recalls the nerves she felt upon meeting Avery for the first time. “The day I met Steve [in February 2004], my heart was beating so hard, I thought I’m going to have a heart attack,” she said. “We sat down, and he is a person of very few words, although he was polite and attentive … When it was time to leave, Steve gave me this big bear hug, and I said, ‘Steve, I am so sorry.’ And he said, ‘It’s OK, Penny. It’s over.’”
Beernsten claims Avery called her a few months after that to ask for money — a request Beerntsen denied. “He was cordial, he wasn’t abusive or anything,” she said. “It was just clear he wanted money from me.”
Part of Beerntsen’s hesitance about Avery came from still seeing him as her attacker, something she discussed with the therapist she began seeing after Avery was exonerated. “Her response was, ‘You will never be able to attach the emotions that you felt at the time of the assault or in the ensuing years to Gregory Allen,” Beerntsen remembers. “ ‘What you need to work on is removing those feelings from Steven Avery.’”
That became more difficult for Beerntsen once she got “a call that a young woman [Halbach] has gone missing and that the last place she was seen was on Steven Avery’s property.”
“So my emotions regarding Steven Avery are complicated,” she said.
Read the full piece at The Marshall Project website, and watch Making a Murderer on Netflix.