The release of Making a Murderer on Netflix last December left numerous people questioning the legal justice system, specifically how authorities Manitowoc County, Wisconsin handled the Steven Avery case. Emails to the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department that poured in from viewers across the world were recently made public, and the majority of them blasted the department and accused the officers of corruption.
Post-Crescent reports that the emails, released toUSA TODAY under the public records request, were primarily filled with people who criticized the authorities who investigated the 2005 murder of freelance photographer Teresa Halbach. Steven Avery, the centerpiece of the documentary, remains in prison for Halbach’s murder, but judging by the tones and accusation of the emails sent to the sheriff’s office, it seems that the consensus is that Avery was treated unfairly.
For instance, one person who viewed the documentary accused the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department of being the most corrupt organization in North America, and indicated that, whether Avery is guilty or not, authorities didn’t handle the case in the way they should have.
“I know you keep defending your crime mob department saying that people don’t know all the facts and by discrediting the documentary, but whether he is guilty or not, how in the hell do you and your mobsters sleep at night? … Your office might be the most corrupt organization in North America now that El Chapo has been captured.”
A Wisconsin resident had the same sentiments when sending in an email, claiming to be ashamed of being from the state and calling Manitowoc County a “cesspool of evil.”
“Your entire sheriff dept are the ones who should be tossed in jail … It makes me ashamed to be from Wisconsin and you can bet I won’t be in a hurry to ever drive past your cesspool of evil. Ever … God will deal with everyone who had a hand in this mess, you can be sure of that.”
Other people outright claimed that Avery was innocent and framed for the murder, and that the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department’s incompetence resulted in an innocent man being incarcerated. Some people went as far as telling the sheriff’s department to “rot in h***.”
“Tell me please, what has Steve Avery done to this community that he deserved to be set up for a murder? All evidence points towards the incompetence of your department.”
The masses of emails sent in prompted Manitowoc County Board Chairman Jim Brey to send an email of his own, pleading with county board members to support the sheriff’s office amid the animosity towards them. Brey even accused some of the emails of including “borderline threatening” information.
“Some of the emails, in my opinion, have been borderline threatening. Not to myself but to members of our law enforcement community. I have never been the big paranoid person… but after one of the emails I received contained the line and I quote ‘ROT IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY YOU EVIL BASTARD!’ I felt that at the very least, the Sheriff’s Department should place these on file in case something shows up later.”
In some instances, perhaps Brey is correct. On February 3 at around 6:40 p.m., a man called the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department and said there were bombs inside the sheriff’s office, as well as explosives packed inside a car outside of the office. Although no bombs were found, the caller said it was about “getting justice for Steven.” Authorities surmised it to be about Avery’s case.
Bomb threat caller made statement of getting "justice for Steven" in an apparent reference to Steven Avery— Manitowoc Police (@ManitowocPolice) February 4, 2016
Twenty minutes later on the same day, another bomb threat was made. Authorities cleared everyone out of the sheriff’s office, as well as the Manitowoc County Courthouse, but found nothing suspicious.
In January, Manitowoc County assistant district attorney Michael Griesbach, who wrote a book about the Avery case, said that the sheriff’s department was receiving threats on a daily basis.
“We’re getting threats. The sheriff’s department is getting threats daily.”
Some of the threats, which targeted individual officers by name, were sent over to the FBI and the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Manitowoc County’s sheriff’s Inspector Gregg Schetter said that it’s ironic that people are pushing for fairness and justice, yet are breaking the laws themselves.
“It’s troubling that people talk about wanting fairness in this case, yet are so quick to make decisions and bring violence into it as a solution.”
So far, none of the emails or phone threats have resulted in anyone getting hurt, but Schetter fears that someone make take the Steven Avery justice quest a bit too far one day.
“I know it only takes one person to cause harm. I’m afraid for our employees and the citizens in our city and our county….I pray that nobody acts out on anything based on a film.”
[Photo by AP/Kirk Wagner, Pool]