In December, 46-year-old Daniel Luke was crashing in his mother’s apartment in Portland, Oregon, and trying to learn coding and web design. By January, he was holed up in a cheap Wisconsin motel, trying to solve a murder case despite not being a policeman, detective, or investigator of any kind. What happened in between? Luke binge-watched Netflix’s ten-part documentary series, Making A Murderer. More so than any other true-crime tale in recent memory, Murderer has inspired its fans to become a nation of self-appointed Nancy Drews, taking it upon themselves to exonerate Steven Avery of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. Jesse Hicks has written up Daniel Luke’s strange odyssey for The Kernel, and it emerges as a strange tale of a man searching for the truth and for redemption in his own life. In a very convoluted fashion, Luke is trying to exculpate not only Avery but also himself.
As the story reveals, Luke has a considerable criminal past of his own, including an incident when he strangled his now-ex-wife, leading to a two-year prison bid. Rather than disqualifying him from working on the case, Luke feels that his own troubled history and insight into the criminal justice system actually makes him uniquely suited to investigate the Halbach case. Like many Making A Murderer fans, Luke has his own pet theory as to the identity of the real culprit. To him, the likeliest suspect is Teresa’s ex-boyfriend, Ryan Hillegas. When he looks at the “rejected” Hillegas, Luke sees the same anger and weakness of character that he once saw in himself. The aspiring sleuth was so committed to proving his theory that he used up what was left of his money to fly from Oregon to Wisconsin to do some in-depth amateur investigation. Luke is back in Oregon now and keeps his hopes low, saying “I expect to fail, but if I don’t, it will be very exciting.”