I spent the holidays as many people across this great nation did — binge-watching the epically addictive and totally depressing Netflix docu-series, Making A Murderer. Twice.
The 10-part documentary takes a hard look at the case of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was falsely convicted in 1985 for rape and attempted murder — thanks, in part, to tunnel vision on the part of the local Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department —and spent 18 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Then, just two years after his release, he was charged and eventually convicted in the murder of a woman named Teresa Halbach. Avery has maintained his innocence and the documentary delves into little-known details about the police investigation, which Avery, his family and his defense team believe involved framing him for the crime.
While we may never know for sure who killed Halbach, what we can say for certain is that pretty much everyone involved in the case against Avery was a completely loathsome garbage monster. Because I like a challenge, I decided to rank the worst of the folks involved in the current case in descending order.
11. Sherry Culhane, DNA Technical Unit Leader
This Midwestern Melanie Griffith had one job — to test the bullet found in Steven Avery’s garage for Teresa Halbach’s DNA. Given how important this test was, you would think Culhane would be super careful, especially since there was only ONE sample that could be tested, no do-overs. Alas, Culhane managed to fuck up, admitting during the trial that she had gotten her own DNA mixed up in the sample. According to procedure, Culhane should have reported that the results were “inconclusive,” but this dimestore “Working Girl” not only forgot to mention that she had tainted the sample, but she also concluded with certainty that the test proved Halbach’s DNA was on the bullet.
10. Dr. Marc LeBeau, FBI Chemistry Unit Chief
After the defense contended that Avery’s blood found in Halbach’s car might have been planted, the prosecution was allowed to ask their buds at the FBI to come up with a test that would somehow, some way, disprove these claims. Dr. Marc LeBeau of the FBI — a dead ringer for the mustache man emoji — testified that his (hastily thrown together) test did not detect the presence of EDTA, a chemical that would only show up in blood that came from a vial (like the one the defense believed had been used to frame Avery) and therefore could not have been planted. However, a defense expert testified that she would not have arrived at the same conclusion, given that the FBI only tested three samples, not ALL of the blood in the car. Plus, tests like the one LeBeau was so gosh darn proud of are largely dismissed as being, well, JUNK — including by very agency he represented, the FBI.
9. Norm Gahn, Special Prosecutor
While mostly a sidekick to the inarguably loathsome prosecutor Ken Kratz, Norm Gahn earned my contempt with the stink he made about the defense’s suggestion that a few Manitowoc County police officers — namely, James Lenk and Andrew Colborn — might have planted evidence. Gahn’s “blood boil[ed]” that anyone would accuse these “good, solid, decent family men” of tampering with evidence, and insisted that they “deserve(d) to have their reputations protected.” Oh settle the fuck down, Norm. It’s really not so crazy to suggest that a member or members of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department would be up to shady business, especially if that business involved Steven Avery, considering THEY DID IT ONCE BEFORE, remember?
8. Judge Jerome Fox, judge in Brendan Dassey’s trial
Brendan Dassey — Avery’s teenage nephew and co-defendent — was unable to pay for a lawyer and was thus assigned a court-appointed attorney named Len Kachinsky. While some public defenders are great at their jobs, Kachinsky wasn’t even trying to do his. And yet, Judge Jerome Fox refused Dassey’s request for a new attorney. Later, when Judge Fox was finally forced to give Kachinsky the heave-ho because he had allowed investigators to interrogate Dassey ALONE, resulting in his written confession, Judge Fox still allowed that confession to be admitted into evidence. So this overflowing sanitary napkin dispenser masquerading as a judge finally realized Kachinsky was trash, but everything that resulted from his trash representation could still be used against Brendan? HOW IS THAT OKAY?
7. Scott Tadych, Bobby & Brendan Dassey’s step-father and Steven Avery’s brother-in-law; Bobby Dassey, Brendan’s brother and Avery’s nephew
Scott Tadych made no secret of being delighted by his brother-in-law’s conviction, telling the media that it was “the best thing in the world ever.” But Scott shouldn’t be so smug considering his own checkered past as a serial abuser of women, not to mention the fact that he and his son-in-law Bobby Dassey should have been treated as suspects in Halbach’s murder.
Scott and Bobby lived in an adjacent trailer on the Avery property and testified to seeing Halbach the day she was killed. But, they conveniently provided alibis for each other for the time period when she was believed to have been killed. Neither was was asked to give fingerprints or a DNA sample to police, and their trailer wasn’t searched. Shortly after the murder, Tadych was reportedly trying to sell a .22 rifle, the same type of gun believed to be the murder weapon, which belonged to “one of the Dassey boys” (Bobby, perhaps?). Oh, and lastly, this was Scott Tadych’s expression as Brendan Dassey’s guilty verdict was delivered, on the far left:
Seriously, WTF? If somehow we did find out that Tadych and Bobby Dassey were responsible for Halbach’s murder, then these two rancid, puke-filled sludge buckets would rocket straight to the top of this list.
6. Kenneth Peterson, Manitowoc County sheriff in 2005
In 1985, Peterson was the officer who arrested Steven Avery for the rape of Penny Beernsten, a crime he served 18 years in jail for before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Twenty years later, when Avery was arrested for Halbach’s murder, Peterson was sheriff. Clearly, he relished having a second opportunity to put Avery behind bars for good. Peterson reached peak smarmy garbage cop when he appeared on TV and mocked the defense’s claim that the police planted evidence, saying in complete and total seriousness that it would be “a whole lot easier to eliminate (Avery) than it would to frame him.” You know, BY KILLING HIM.
5. Detective Mark Wiegert, sergeant with the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department, and Detective Tom Fassbender, Investigator with the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation
Just because they ain’t Manitowoc County cops doesn’t mean they ain’t crooked AF. The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department was told to keep their grubby hands off the Halbach investigation, so officers Wiegert ’N’ Fassbender were put on the case. Among their first stops? The high school attended by Brendan Dassey. For hours, Wiegert, with the less-verbal Fassbender as backup, badgered Brendan into confessing that he, along with Avery, had raped and murdered Halbach. While a more mature, mentally proficient adult might have walked away from such an intense interrogation unscathed, Brendan was clearly vulnerable to the officers’ manipulating tactics and didn’t under the gravity of the situation. I don’t know how you could watch how Dassey’s “confession” came out and believe it to be genuine – I mean, the kid confessed to raping and murdering someone and then asked if he would be back at school in time for a quiz! Like, WHAT?!
What I hate the most about these two clunky cans full of discarded deli mayo, beer-soaked newspapers and three-week old chili, is that they appealed to Brendan’s mental and emotional immaturity, and pretended to care about what happened to him — and then they did their part to send him to prison for the majority of his life. Sickening.
Honorable Mention: Mark Wiegert’s last remaining tuft of hair. Dude, LET IT GO.
4. Len Kachinsky, Brendan Dassey’s first lawyer
If Brendan Dassey has indeed been wrongfully convicted based almost entirely on his recanted confession, then most of the blame should be placed on his own lawyer, Len Kachinsky. After all, had Kachinsky been doing his job as Dassey’s attorney, then he wouldn’t have allowed detectives Wiegert and Fassbender to interrogate him for hours outside of his presence. He wouldn’t have gone on television and labeled his underage client “morally and legally responsible” for the charges he was supposed to be defending him against, and he would not have hired a private investigator whose primary mission was to solicit a confession from the learning disabled teenager.
Kachinsky spent very little time with his client or searching for ways to prove his innocence, probably because his priority was to help the State turn Dassey into a witness against Avery, regardless of how it would ultimately impact the 16-year-old’s life. Though Judge Jerome Fox finally fired Kachinsky for orchestrating a meeting between Dassey and investigators — ALONE — to go over some “inconsistencies” in his (coerced, again) written confession, the pink slip arrived far too late.
3. Officers Andrew Holborn and James Lenk, sergeants with the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department
These two chumps, along with the rest of the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, were told to stay out of the investigation into Halbach’s death. See, just a few weeks prior, both officers were deposed in Avery’s civil suit over the police’s responsibility in his first false conviction. Each played a key role in that case, so they had a massive conflict of interest in investigating this one. AND YET! These two eager beavers just couldn’t help themselves, showing up time and time again throughout the investigation, and always JUST BEFORE some new piece of evidence was discovered.
Oh look, whatcha doin’ over there by that bookshelf, Lenk? Oh weird, A KEY TO A RAV-4 is right by your shoe! Can’t believe I missed it!
Hey, what a coinkidink, Detective Colborn called in about Teresa Halbach’s license plate number days before her car was found on the Averys property. Not strange at all.
Raise your hand if you knew there was a vial of Steve Avery’s blood in this box of evidence at the country clerk’s office? Just James Lenk? Well there’s no way he did so maybe the box cut itself open, it happens. LALALALALALA.
I don’t think Colborn and Lenk were actually involved in Halbach’s death. However, I am willing to bet the contents of my right jeans pocket (four shelled peanuts and $26.35 in cash/change) that as soon as these two butthurt trash babies saw the connection between Halbach and Avery, they seized the opportunity to make sure he was held responsible for whatever happened to her, planting evidence as they went along.
2. Michael O’Kelly, private investigator hired by Len Kachinsky
Like Kachinsky, O’Kelly was supposed to be working for Brendan Dassey, but was very clearly taking his directives from the State in its attempts to coerce a confession out of the teenager. After all, as O’Kelly told Kachinsky in an email, the Averys “are criminals.” He went on to cite unsubstantiated rumors about the Avery family:
“There are members engaged in sexual activities with nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws. Customers or their relatives unwittingly become victims of their sexual fantasies. This is truly where the devil resides in comfort.”
And he was supposed to be on Dassey’s side? Fat chance.
O’Kelly was finally successful in getting a written confession out of Dassey, but only after he lied and told the boy that the polygraph test he had taken showed a “98 percent chance” that he was lying (in truth, the test, which is scientifically bogus anyway, was “inconclusive”). Then, over a period of hours, O’Kelly manipulated Brendan into penning a lengthy confession, coaching him into adding specific details and drawings, including a doodle of Dassey raping Halbach, all the while repeatedly telling him that it was the only way he could help him stay out of jail.
Did I mention O’Kelly should also win the Emmy for Worst Acting By A Barely Sentient Human Roomba for that shit with the blue ribbon? OHHHHHH YES, the blu — SOB! — blue rib — I’m sorry, I just — ribbon. The one that was supposedly affixed to a church in memory of Teresa Halbach? O’Kelly had a photo of the alleged blue ribbon (I’m sorry, I don’t even think it exists, I need to see receipts) in the interrogation room with Brendan, probably to instill guilt as part of his patented confession-coercing technique. Asked about the photo during the trial, O’Kelly feigned a choked sob and fought back tears, doing his very best to manipulate the jury, as he did Brendan Dassey, into believing he only had the best of intentions and was not, in fact, a steaming pile of sour-smelling refuse. Somehow, the jury bought it.
This brings us to our number one most loathsome garbage monster …
1. Ken Kratz, Special Prosecutor, District Attorney of Calumet County, Wisconsin
This. Fucking. Garbage. Monster. On a purely visceral level, the predatory softness of Ken Kratz’s voice is enough to curdle my lady juices. (And that’s before learning that he was forced to resign in 2010 after being accused of sexual harassment by three women, including a domestic violence victim whose ex-boyfriend he was prosecuting.) While it’s clear that Kratz does not reside on the moral high ground one would expect of a person in such a position of authority, perhaps it’s this ethical ineptitude that made him perfect for the job of special prosecutor in the case against Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey.
In polling my Making A Murderer-obsessed friends, there was a near universal agreement that Kratz should be at the top of the garbage pile for presiding over a case that is full of questionable and unethical police work, prosecutorial misconduct, and misrepresentation of evidence, resulting in both Avery and Dassey’s separate convictions. But the moment that truly made me loathe Ken Kratz with every fiber of my being was the televised press conference held shortly after Brendan Dassey “confessed.”
Watch as Kratz reveals the horrifying “details” of Brendan’s confession, filling in the blanks with his own own lurid descriptions about the manner in which Halbach was raped, tortured and then killed by Avery and Dassey. Yet, not a single drop of that confession — which Dassey recanted, maintaining his innocence ever since — or even Dassey’s involvement, was ultimately used to prosecute Steven Avery. But the damage from those publicly released and uncorroborated details had already been done to Avery’s presumption of innocence. Despite this exploitative public spectacle, during his opening arguments in Avery’s trial, Kratz asserted, “Who killed her? This evidence points to one person,” indicating Avery.
But a few months later, Kratz was back in the courtroom, pointing his finger at a second alleged murderer, Brendan Dassey, and using his recanted confession – containing a litany of details that directly contradict the narrative of the crime used to convict Avery — as evidence (the only “evidence,” really) against Dassey. HOW IS THIS LEGAL? HOW IS THIS FAIR? HOW IS KEN KRATZ A HUMAN MALE AND NOT ONE OF THE TRASH HEAPS FROM FRAGGLE ROCK?!
Original By: Wendy Atterberry