Manitowoc residents dispute 'Making a Murderer' depiction

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It's the documentary series everyone in America is talking about. "Making a Murderer" has put one Midwestern city on the map.

Fox 32's Jake Hamilton traveled north to Manitowoc, Wisconsin to talk with the people of the community about their newfound nationwide attention.

Everyone has their own thoughts after watching "Making a Murderer" but no one seems to be talking to the people of Manitowoc County, where the now-infamous Steven Avery trial took place.

Three hours north of Chicago lies the city of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. You may have heard of it.

With a population of a little more than 30,000, the city was virtually unknown until four weeks ago when the release of the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” made Manitowoc the subject of public scrutiny.

“All of a sudden it’s just blowing up in everybody’s face and I think it’s terrible,” said Lisa Saubert, a resident of Manitowoc.

The documentary series claims that Steven Avery, who was once imprisoned for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit, was later framed for the murder of a young woman.

Avery is currently serving a life sentence in Waupun, Wisconsin with no possibility of parole.

But the nation has been swept up in a vicious outcry for Avery’s release, many claiming the documentary proves his innocence.

But the people of the Manitowoc community feel differently.

“It just breaks my heart that all of a sudden the whole United States claims this gentleman needs to be freed and they’re not seeing the other part of it,” Saubert said.

To put it simply, Saubert thinks that the documentary is, at the least, skewed. And she’s not alone.

“I seem to think it’s one-sided. That there’s more to the story than what we’re hearing,” said Linda Neuzil, a resident of Kewaunee County.

“It’s very one-sided. They lied on ‘em. I lived through the whole trial, read the newspaper articles. And some of the stuff are just falsehoods,” said Terry Prigge, resident of Manitowoc. When asked if she believe Avery is guilty, Prigge responded, “Oh yes, very much so.”

In fact, every person of the community we spoke with either thought the documentary was skewed or that Avery was, in fact, actually guilty.

But that is of little comfort to Captain Larry Zimney of the Manitowoc Police Department because as of the release of the documentary, they’ve been having a rough time.

“There’s been death threats made toward some of our officers. There’s been nasty e-mails and nasty phone calls,” said Zimney. “We’re still doing our business to protect the community but it’s been a little bit of a distraction.”

The Manitowoc Police Department has been showered in negative attention despite the fact that they had nothing to do with the actual Avery investigation.

The murder itself took place in the next town over – Two Rivers. And it was the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department who took part in the investigation.

But make no mistake – they’re feeling the heat as well.

“A lot of the e-mails – most of them are saying we’re corrupt,” said Robert Hermann, Sheriff of Manitowoc County. “One officer did get a couple calls – one call, he was told that if he didn’t take care of himself, he’d put a bullet in his head for him.”

Hermann has been the sheriff of Manitowoc County since 2007 and was undersheriff during the Avery investigation. It’s his department that is facing accusations of corruption and tampering with evidence.

Since the documentary’s release, his inbox has been flooded with angry e-mails.

“The entire country hates you and your county,” one email reads. “How the hell do you people sleep at night,” another says. “Watch yourselves.”

But despite the rumors and allegations, Sheriff Hermann stands by his officers.

“I think law enforcement did their job in collecting the evidence and statements and things and putting the case together. I don’t know that there’s any wrong doing. I’m not aware of any and I don’t suspect there is any,” Hermann said.

But, in the end, we need to go back to the beginning, where it all began.

The alleged scene of the murder is Avery’s Auto Salvage.

Well-documented in the series, it was like stepping onto the set of a movie.

FOX 32's Jake Hamilton entered the office of Avery’s Auto and, to his surprise, had a candid conversation with Earl Avery, Steven’s brother.

At the order of family attorney Kathleen Zellner, he’s not allowed to give on-camera interviews but when Hamilton spoke with him about the nation-wide reaction to his brother’s case, he simply said, “It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?”

It was around this time that Steven’s other brother, Chuck Avery, arrived and told our photographer and producer, “We ain’t doin’ no interviews. Pack it up.”

So that’s exactly what we did.

Four weeks ago, few had ever heard of the city of Manitowoc but today, it’s the most hotly debated city in the nation.

Guilty. Innocent. Corrupt. Clean.

Sitting in front of a television, everyone is a couch lawyer ready to deliver their own personal verdict from the comfort of their home.

But in this town, with these people it’s real life. And there’s nothing comfortable about it.

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