MANITOWOC, Wis. (WCCO) — Just a month ago, few knew of a Wisconsin city called Manitowoc. Now, a Netflix series has put it on the map.
The wildly popular “Making a Murderer” documentary follows the twists and turns of two criminal cases against Steven Avery. If you’re reading this story, let this serve as a warning that there are a few spoilers here.
We wondered about all the attention to that area, so WCCO went east to Manitowoc and found the spotlight has been tough to take.
For the past three weeks, they are the voices Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann heard each morning.
“You can go to hell,” one message said.
“You are the worst department in the country,” said another caller.
Sheriff Hermann has spent his career in this department and served nine years as sheriff.
“The calls and e-mails are coming from all over,” he said. “Germany, Australia…”
A once tranquil Lake Michigan harbor town, Manitowoc is now in the middle of a firestorm unlike any this city of 30,000 has ever seen.
“I think it really shines a negative light on this area,” Sheriff Hermann added.
The Netflix series, “Making a Murderer” focuses first on Steven Avery’s wrongful rape conviction and multi-million dollar lawsuit against the county for the 18 years he spent in prison. Then, it chronicles a murder charge against Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey.
Courtroom testimony captures Avery’s skillful defense team placing blame on Manitowoc deputies, accusing them of planting evidence to frame their client because of the pending lawsuit.
“To get that many people together or to try and frame somebody — it’s just absurd,” Sheriff Hermann said.
But Sheriff Hermann says a list of key evidence against Avery never made it on screen. It’s why the town gossip about the show sounds a bit different in Manitowoc
“I think this documentary wanted to show this town as dumb,” Bonnnie Ullman said.
Ullman lived through Steven Avery’s murder trial eight years ago.
“I think it was one-sided. Definitely, one-sided,” Ullman said. “I think there should be two sides to every story, and I think there should be another story with all the facts.”
Steven Avery’s family declined to be interviewed for this story. They said they didn’t trust the media to get the story straight. But, Avery’s brother did tell WCCO his salvage yard is getting hundreds of calls a day and dozens of people stopping by just to take a look around. Days ago, deputies arrested a man from Utah who showed up on the Avery property in a cab, and refused to leave.
The sheriff also says a convicted felon from Florida drove to the house of a deputy featured in the documentary, making threats. Hermann hopes anyone who does watch will do their own research.
“Obviously, it’s people that are uninformed and don’t have the whole story,” Sheriff Hermann said.
It’s a story thousands are demanding a new ending to, but many in Manitowoc are already convinced turned out the way it should.
The Manitowoc County Sheriff says his department is already planning for a large rally he’s heard will be held in support of Steve Avery at the end of the month.
His department has also received what’s called a “glitter bomb” from New York. It’s a spring loaded message that, as you can imagine, leaves a big mess behind when it’s opened. Sheriff Hermann says a number of people involved in the prosecution of Steven Avery received the same thing.