Depending on your point of view, there are several victims in the story behind the tale of Steven Avery as told by the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.
There’s a possibility that Avery is a victim due to the reasonable doubt surrounding his guilt in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach. It appears Avery’s nephew, Brendan Dassey, is very much a victim of unethical practices by Manitowoc County officials in the questioning room — and possibly Avery if he did, indeed, intimidate Dassey into helping him murder Halbach. And the true victim in the situation is obviously Halbach, whose life was needlessly taken from her.
But now, the residents of Manitowoc County are coming forward to say that they have also been victimized — not by Avery or the Wisconsin court system, but by the success of Making a Murderer itself.
Monica Davey, the reporter who wrote the initial article that caught the eye of Making a Murderer filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, recently returned to the otherwise peaceful Manitowoc County to find the area flooded by public harassment via telephone, email and social media.
And the fury is taking a toll on residents, who already lived through the trauma of the original murder and subsequent trial in 2005 and 2006. Many are overwhelmed by the media presence since Making a Murderer debuted in December, and some are even concerned for their safety due to threats from angry viewers.
“We lived through this 10 years ago,” Jason Ring, the president of the Manitowoc Area Visitor and Convention Bureau, told Davey. “We made our judgment, and the trial came to an end, and locally most people were in support of that… Now it’s back — by no choosing or no doing of anyone in this community.
“So that’s the first point of injustice,” he added. “That we have to live through it again.”
Davey also discovered that many Manitowoc County locals believe that Avery is guilty and don’t understand the point of dredging up the past.
“Look, we lived this whole thing like a juror,” resident Suzanne Fox told Davey. “He was guilty as sin.”
For Ricciardi’s and Demos’ parts, they recognize the turmoil their film has brought upon the people Manitowoc County.
“We have empathy for Manitowoc because we know that people have been reaching out in unkind ways and posting things about the city and the county,” Ricciardi said, according to Davey. “That’s an unfortunate response, because we have always wanted the series to be constructive, not destructive.”