Jerry Buting, one of Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery’s defense lawyers, made sure he gave Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Colborn a snarky retirement sendoff Saturday.
Buting, who, at trial, strongly suggested that Colborn and Manitowoc Lt. Detective James Lenk planted evidence against his client, tweeted a photo of the officers Photoshopped onto a Planters peanuts ad along with his comment, “Colborn’s monthly pension will include the standard issue Manitowoc retirement ration.”
It is unclear who created the meme, however, it is one that has been floating around social media since Colborn and Lenk were first vilified by Making a Murderer filmmakers, who opponents of the Netflix hit say defamed them to make Avery and Brendan Dassey appear as victims set up by corrupt officials.
Colborn confirmed his retirement on Friday, February 2. He was hired in 1992 under Manitowoc County Sheriff Tom Kocourek and became lieutenant of the detective bureau in 2013.
In 2005, Colborn was at the center of Avery’s cry that police were framing him for the murder of Teresa Halbach, a defense Buting and Dean Strang put on at trial. Making a Murderer filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos championed that defense, suggesting Lenk and Colborn were on the front lines of what they presented as a multi-layered conspiracy to frame Avery for murder, so Manitowoc County could avoid paying him millions of dollars in a wrongful conviction lawsuit he filed over a 1985 rape he didn’t commit.
Colborn was involved in the fix from the onset, the documentary showed. The production suggests that he worked with Calumet County Investigator Mark Wiegert to establish Avery as the killer the day Halbach was reported missing. The documentary also depicted Colborn as the one who planted Halbach’s car key in Avery’s bedroom.
As Buting and Strang brought up at trial, police had been in Avery’s trailer several times and found no key. The key to the Toyota Rav4 was only found when Lenk and Colborn, who the defense claimed should not have been on the property, searched Avery’s bedroom together while a Calumet County deputy completed paperwork.
Buting suggested that Colborn’s explanation that the key may have been dislodged while he was searching a bookcase was untrue. The lawyer told the jury the way the key was found in relation to the bookcase indicated it was dropped there, likely before Lenk discovered it near a pair of Avery’s slippers.
According to former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz, who has chided Making a Murderer for what he calls deceptive editing, the key was found exactly when it should have been located. He said while there were police on and off the property on multiple occasions during the Halbach investigation, the key was found November 8, 2005, during the first targeted search of the bedroom. Police conducted subsequent searches and retrieved other pieces of the evidence, too, Kratz said. Each search came after Halbach’s Toyota RAV4 was found on November 5 and police obtained search warrants.
Colborn, 58, has also been accused of falsifying the discovery of the Toyota. Buting and Strang questioned whether they found the car on Nov. 3, when he called the sheriff’s department on his cellphone to verify Halbach’s license plates.
Colborn, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1976 to 1988, denies that he or any member of law enforcement planted evidence against Steven Avery. He did recall receiving a phone call in 1995, when Avery was serving time for the 1985 rape, from a Green Bay detective who said Gregory Allen may have committed the crime. Colborn passed the message along, but the matter was not aggressively pursued until DNA tests proved Allen was the perpetrator. Avery was exonerated in 2003.
Halbach was killed on Halloween, 2005. Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, were convicted of first-degree murder in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.
James Lenk retired five years ago. In addition to their work as lawyers, Buting and Strang are authors and travel around the world speaking about the Avery case.