'Making a Murderer' shines unwanted spotlight on Wisconsin city

Fri Jan 29, 2016 7:34pm EST
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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 Discovery channel.

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.   Continued...

Steven Avery is pictured in this undated booking photo obtained by Reuters January 29, 2016. The television documentary "Making a Murderer," -- from the case against Avery and Brendan Dassey, who were convicted of killing freelance photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005 -- has put Manitowoc on the map.  REUTERS/Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department/Handout via Reuters