a Murderer' shines unwanted spotlight on Wisconsin city
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[January 30, 2016]
By Brendan O'Brien
MANITOWOC, Wis. (Reuters) - The television
documentary "Making a Murderer," a gripping series about two Wisconsin
men convicted of murder, has put this blue-collar city of 35,000 on the
map, to the dismay of many residents.
The wildly popular Netflix series, spread out over 10 episodes,
details the case against Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan
Dassey. It suggests that authorities planted evidence against the
men, a claim that has been rejected by local law enforcement.
The spotlight will continue to shine on the city located on the
shore of Lake Michigan, about 80 miles (129 km) north of Milwaukee.
Two other, separate programs about the case are scheduled to air on
Friday and Saturday, on NBC's "Dateline" and the Investigation
The Netflix series may be a popular success but some residents are
tired of hearing about it. "It's like trying to keep religion and
politics out of the bar," said Stacey Vanderbloomen, owner of Van's
Bar and Grill, as she tended bar among flashing neon beer signs and
electronic dart board machines.
"I tell them let's not talk about it anymore," she said, as two
burly men in heavy winter coats swigged beer and discussed the case.
Her preference has not stopped self-professed legal experts in town
from sharing their conspiracy theories after watching the series
about Avery and Dassey, who were convicted of killing freelance
photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005.
It has also not stemmed the flow of curious outsiders traveling to
Avery's Auto Salvage on the outskirts of town where authorities
found Halbach's remains. Outsiders are visiting local restaurants
and stores, but that does not make some residents happy.
"It'll bring people who are going to eat and spend money, but that's
not the type of money we really want," said Jim Kollath, 59, a
regular at Van's.
Gas station attendants near the salvage yard said they have been
inundated with motorists asking for directions to the scene.
If tourists arrive at the Avery residence rather than the family's
nearby salvage yard, they are met by a handwritten sign posted at
the corner of a snow-covered field, reading "No Trespassing. Private
Drive & Property."
"Somebody from out of state, two weeks ago, was out at the Avery
property and they invited him in and they couldn't get rid of them,"
said Manitowoc Sheriff Robert Hermann as he scrolled through
hate-filled emails related to the case. "We had to send a squad
(car) up there and remove the person."
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In addition to drawing unwanted guests, the documentary has hurt the
image of Manitowoc, residents said.
"This is the worst mark that has happened to it," Kollath said.
Manitowoc takes pride in its reputation as a city that built 28
submarines for the U.S. Navy during World War Two. One of its most
noteworthy landmarks is a faded mural of a Budweiser bottle and cans
on a malt plant that towers over downtown area.
Jason Ring, president of the Manitowoc Area Visitor and Convention
Bureau, believes it is only a matter of time before outsiders forget
about the case.
One business owner prefers that fans of the documentary just stay
"I'm so sick of it. It's over," said the woman, who declined to give
The business community is more concerned about Manitowoc Company
Inc's planned split into two companies. The maker of cranes and
food-service equipment has announced it will separate its businesses
after pressure from activist investors.
"That is probably going to affect our community more than this
(murder) case is ... but everyone is talking about the Avery case,"
said David Lockmann, owner of the Bike 'n Fit bicycle shop in
downtown Manitowoc. "It's crazy."
(Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)
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