Making a Murderer – Episode 1
Manitowoc County, Wisconsin is a small rural town where the majority are working-class farmers. The Avery family was one of the few to step out of the mold: they had a salvage yard, the road they lived on was named after them, they dressed differently to everybody else, and they weren’t involved in the regular community activities. Basically, this family didn’t fit in.
Steven Avery seemed to get in trouble a lot from an early age. According to him, it wasn’t much: two counts of burglary, mistreating an animal, endangering safety regardless of life, and felon in possession of a firearm. This last one came as the result of an incident in which he drove his cousin off the road.
On July 29th, 1985, Penny Beerntsen and her husband went to the beach on Lake Michigan. They were an influential couple that owned commercial enterprises in the community. Around 3 o’clock that afternoon Penny went for a jog along the shore. A man who was wearing a black leather jacket sexually assaulted her and left her for dead. Later at the hospital when Penny Beerntsen described her assailant, the deputy sheriff immediately said that it sounded like Steven Avery, despite the fact that the victim could have been describing a known rapist. This deputy sheriff lived right across the road from Steven and it was well known that she disliked him.
After spending 18 years of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, DNA evidence was used to clear Steven Avery. On the day he was released, when he arrived at his parent’s rural home in Gibson, he told reporters that in spite of the injustice he suffered, he was not a bitter man. He claimed to have left his anger behind in the prison. Avery said that it was his dreams and the possibility of miracles that kept him going and helped him to make it through his undeserved imprisonment for 18 years of his life, while his wife struggled alone to raise their five children.
Soon after his release he presented a lawsuit against Monitowoc County, the sheriff at the time – Thomas Kocourek, and Denis R. Vogel who was the district attorney at the time of his conviction. He was seeking compensation for the loss of his freedom and punitive damages for the reckless behavior of the defendants. However, after his release, Avery became again the prime suspect in a new crime.
This is the first episode of the 10-episode documentary series that is currently available in its entirety on Netflix.