The Summer of Love
As most people by now know, not long after watching Making a Murderer, I flew to Wisconsin and met with the Avery family on Christmas Day to tell them my suspicion that it was Ryan Hillegas who murdered Teresa Halbach.
There were a lot of reasons I had for suspecting Ryan, then, and those suspicions have only grown over time not just for me but for possibly tens of thousands of people around the world. If I am proved to be correct, then the entire matter must be opened up and studied so we can begin to understand what happened more fundamentally.
For example, one of the biggest questions I had early on was whether those involved in investigating and prosecuting Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey really, truly believed that these defendants were guilty. This question makes a difference even if we can not find aught of any aspect of those innumerable manners of Ken Kratz that we are all wont to find repulsive from the most involuntary depths of our limbic system. It’s one thing to prosecute two men who you believe to be guilty (who are not), and another, altogether, to prosecute two men in whose guilt you don’t believe or to which you have a cold indifference because a conviction will be a major stepping stone to future glory.
As if I were the string-pulled puppet, too, of my autonomic nervous system, I can now confess that I may have imputed more genius for mayhem to Ryan Hillegas than he may have properly deserved. You see, my initial position was that Ken Kratz, along with the rest of Manitowoc, had been fooled by a devious and highly intelligent schemer. Thus, while the rest of the world was apoplectic with rage, I felt sympathy for Kratz and the sheriff’s office.
Nonetheless, I tried to keep an open mind about all matters pertaining to what Making a Murderer brought to light, and that included my presumption of law enforcement’s moral rectitude. You might wonder, “why a presumption of rectitude”? Well, I believe it comes down to being rigorous and fair, and maybe even realistic. Like most Americans, I do not want to believe that we live in a fundamentally corrupt society where law enforcement plants and manipulates evidence. I know it has happened, but I believe it happens very rarely. I also need clear and compelling evidence. If Coburn called in Teresa’s license plate before her car was found, I believe that it is far more probable that he’d simply called in to verify the plate number listed on one of the flyers being distributed in the community that day or the day before than it is that he was standing in front of Teresa’s car before it had been officially located by Pam Sturm. Also, if your starting point is that dirty cops with impunity plant evidence all the time either individually or as a department-wide effort, you lose a lot of people right off the bat. I’d rather start with the way the system itself should have started with Steven Avery: innocent until proven guilty.
I still reject any notion that law enforcement murdered Teresa, or found her remains and then decided to frame Avery. In fact it’s been rather difficult to listen to the crackpots behind these theories blather away as it means others with more substantive observations are all the less likely to be taken seriously.
Now, concerning the planting of evidence, there is no way to espouse Avery’s innocence without espousing the planting of evidence by someone. But who?
For some reason, I must tell you what must by now be obvious. I have a morbid fascination with Ken Kratz. That high pitched, dulcet, expressive voice is the Lorelei beckoning the ship to the rocky coastline; or the hypodermic needle serenading the hopeless heroin addict: every syllable is carved as if from diamond. It is Claire Quilty’s puppy cocker spaniel’s enticement to little girls, the homicidal clown performing tricks at your neighbor kid’s birthday party; all in all efficient, honed and very dangerous.
The delivery of Ken Kratz is chilling in its capacity to give a convincing performance of perfect empathy. But if empathy be not there, what should one expect to see by cracking open this whited sepulcher, I wondered?
Jesse Hicks had asked me about Kratz when it was known as far back as January of this year that he had some dalliance with a young woman and that it was considered by some to be inappropriate. He had tried to have a relationship with a woman whose boyfriend he was prosecuting. I didn’t know much more at the time, and I felt that as long as it was consensual and legal, it was no one’s business but their own.
I’d also written to Kratz several times requesting to meet in person. I was in Wisconsin at the time, so I thought why not ask. I had a lot of questions, and none of those had anything to do with his private life. He never agreed to meet, but he did take the time to copy and past into an email a long list of what he called evidence that the highly slanted, as he would describe it, Making A Murderer left out that put matters in a proper light. I went through all of this supposed “evidence” and responded back to Kratz with five or six exhaustively described flaws in each item. I never received a counter rebuttal.
His refusal to reply made me wonder: how interested was Kratz in the truth, really? My attempts to make further contact with Kratz eventually became futile. Yet he still seemed quite eager to talk to anyone who would listen, going on television and radio shows with millions of listeners as a featured guest. Would he talk to me if I knocked on the door of his law office? I flew to Wisconsin to find out, and nearly ended up going to jail. Spoiler Alert: while he’d been more than happy to talk to Nancy Grace, Jeanine Pirro, and many others in the main stream media, he definitely did not want to talk to me. I found his car in the parking lot though, snapped a few pictures of the trash strewn interior (interestingly, Kratz is a fan of Cherry Pepsi just like Teresa Halbach once was), and, as a lark, but also a show of solidarity with Avery, swabbed his DNA from underneath HIS door latches (his hood latch wasn’t really accessible).
Over time, my view of Kratz would really change quite a bit, even from what it was when I left the environs of his law office in Superior, Wisconsin. I came to know the full story about Stephanie van Groll who he had sexted during the height of his addiction to pills. That seemed fatuous enough, but more, and more of these kinds of reports just kept coming out. And a lot of this information was widely and easily available before his appearance on shows like Nancy Grace of Dr. Drew. It seems like these personalities build their franchise through moral posturing, so it struck me as odd that both, and many others beside would look to Ken Kratz, a man increasingly becoming known as a serial sexual predator, as a source of reliable information about anything. In every one of Ken Kratz’s media appearances he trotted out the same fourteen or so talking points that he had trotted out in the email he’d sent to me in January. And in almost every media appearance, the media personality in question would simply repeat almost every outlandish claim verbatim without ever seriously questioning, lo, without even casually questioning the merits of these claims.
Anyone who has followed this over the last several months has surely heard about Avery opening the door in “nothing but a towel”. That was but one piece of Kratz’s evidence that he claimed was intentionally left out of Making A Murderer to untowardly influence public opinion. Someone who had worked with Teresa Halbach reported that she had once mentioned that. Was it that Teresa said Avery opened the door in a towel? No no no! Nothing BUT a towel must have been what she said because by so saying, there is no possibility that Avery was wearing anything underneath the towel such as a swim suit. He was completely naked underneath the towel, but how we know THIS is not clear since it was never claimed that he removed his towel, which, when you think about it would have been reported with even more urgency and alarm since it would be more shocking than wearing a towel already is in Wisconsin, at least while answering the door. But that wasn’t reported.
And this first link in the causal chain is very characteristic of all the other links in the causal chain that Ken Kratz put forth to convince people of Avery’s guilt after his conviction in the wake of the media attention Making A Murderer garnered. See, the towel incident made Teresa afraid of setting foot on the Avery property. In order for Steven Avery to “lure” her on to the property of the salvage yard, (Kratz’s phraseology, again and again), she essentially had to be tricked (or so Steven Avery believed). That is why *67 was used! Few people in the media, and possibly none, seem to be too troubled though by how a woman could be lured out to a property she’d been to over a dozen times, or how using *67 might have aided such trickery since a person’s identity is usually quickly established once the person answering the call answers. If you listen to what Kratz has to say about a lot of things, you’ll find that he has a chronic habit of distorting things, and also of using suggestion and innuendo.
The hood latch DNA is a prime example of this. He initially claimed that the source of this DNA was from sweat. Ken Kratz has a preoccupation with sweat for some reason. But he appears to know little about it because sweat is not a a source of DNA. “Did the cops go around the salvage yard planting evidence with vials of Avery’s sweat?” he often sneered. If you neglected to question Kratz’s claim that sweat can be a source of DNA, you would have to concede that it would indeed be unlikely for cops or anyone else for that matter to go around Avery Salvage with vials of Steven Avery’s sweat. And even if you did question Kratz on this point, without being an expert on either sweat or DNA, how would it even occur to you that the person making the claim was a sociopathic liar who happened to have the intelligence to make up nonsense from whole cloth that sounded quite plausible. I have an RN’s degree, and I didn’t know any better, and I consider myself someone who doesn’t let many such claims go untested.
Kratz has been married three times. He has described himself as a sex addict on more than one occasion. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that Kratz probably cheated on each of his wives several times. If so, I wonder what lies he told? I wonder if he got really good at telling lies, maybe even to the point of mastery? Maybe he became adept at making implausible scenarios sound plausible? With bank accounts, children, houses and cars at stake, cheaters have a lot of reasons to become expert liars, I should think. Think about how Kratz’s soft, modulated voice would sound in apology for stepping out, how, in its retreating self-assuredness it could convince you that you were going mad, that black had suddenly become white and white had suddenly become black. Cheaters have to go in for the strong sell. Without boldness and confidence wrapped in a package of velvet they don’t succeed.
Kratz wins because he’s underestimated. He’s effete-seeming, soft, protuberant, disarming. But he has that voice, and that voice was created and sculpted by the manifold lies one is obliged to invent to conceal infidelity. That voice can convince women that he’s sorry, or sincere; it can still talk attractive young women into bed (his current girl friend is only 25, and he is 56); it can convince talk show hosts who should know better that it is worth listening to and credible; it is the authentic voice of a true predator that, as lead chair of the Wisconsin Crime Victim’s Right Group can offer mollifying and pleasing platitudes while he is coercing the daughters of those very members into sex; it is the voice that can convince a jury.
Kratz likes to feel powerful. Everything points to that. His voice gives him this opportunity. But it takes far more wisdom than most men have to avoid overreach. When you find yourself almost as depraved as Caligula, at what point do you draw the line when it comes to your behavior? If there is something within your power to change to your advantage that will further your ambitions and sexual conquests, your very raison d’être, let’s say, should there be any reason not to change it? I mean, how do you restrain yourself when you reach that level of self-importance?
According to an article in Newsweek published August 15th, 2016, Ken Kratz was so distrusted by his colleagues in the DAs office once he became the subject of an investigation looking into the nature of his sexual predations while serving as district attorney, that they were afraid he would tamper with the evidence that had mounted against him.
Here is an excerpt from that source:
The documents obtained by Newsweek also reveal new details about the DOJ investigation into Kratz and the prosecutor’s reaction to it. Then-Governor James Doyle asked the DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation to probe Kratz just six days after the AP report about his sexting. When news of the investigation broke and Kratz resigned from his job that paid $105,000 per year, the acting Calumet County District Attorney unplugged Kratz’s computer and put evidence tape over the plug opening. And both investigators and Kratz’s successor appeared to be worried the disgraced prosecutor would sneak into his old office to destroy evidence. When the DOJ director of field operations asked whether Kratz had the keys to the DA’s office, the acting DA said Kratz had both keys and the door lock codes that permitted access to the entire office. But as precaution, the acting DA said, he changed the codes on the front door of the DA’s office.
I’m trying to make a connection here, readers. I am desperately trying to make a connection here about Kratz. It’s one that Zellner herself is trying to make. She gets it:
When you see a fabrication of reality such as what was done in that press conference, you wonder where those ideas come from [and] what would motivate someone to make up such a graphic scenario.
What she’s saying is that all the lurid, deviant sexual deeds that Kratz said Dassey performed on Teresa Halbach were deeds that Kratz had performed, in his on mind, at least, on her and every other woman her age that happened to walk by. Kratz does not have a problem conjuring up elaborate sexual scenarios. He is a self-professed sex addict after all. This is what he spends his time doing, it is integral to who he is and how he thinks.
And that is why, according to the Newsweek article, Kratz chose to staff his office with only attractive young women. If you read the article, you’ll find that there are nearly twenty women who have told stories about Kratz either making obscene comments, or gestures (unrequested hand up a skirt to name but just one). Several women report sexual coercion. Here is but one account:
A woman who met Kratz when he prosecuted her for shoplifting in 2006 said the prosecutor called her “out of the blue” in 2009, said he was getting a divorce and then came to her apartment, where he said in a threatening manner that he “knew everything about her” and “if she did not listen to him, he could get her ‘jammed up,’” according to an investigation report. “While Kratz was at [the woman’s] apartment, [he] said he ties women up, they listen to him, and he is in control. [The woman] stated that Kratz wanted her to engage in bondage with him. She said he instructed her to give him a ‘blow job,’ and she did.
Though Kratz has before admitted that he acted inappropriately (because he was suffering from an addiction to pain pills because of an injury), in the face of the totality of these complaints he steadfastly maintains his innocence:
Kratz tells Newsweek that all the accusations against him are unfounded, citing the fact that the DOJ decided not to bring any criminal charges against him. “They had nothing. They thought they were going to charge me with misconduct in office, but none of that was ever true,
He sounds quite repentant, does he? Should you wonder why Kratz was singled out among so many prosecutors from around the state without any similar allegations being made, well, Kratz has an explanation for that too:
Kratz maintains that campaigning politicians pushed the investigation of him, and that a DOJ press release that asked for information about his misconduct triggered the numerous complaints against him.
A great deal of the evidence that was collected for the Steven Avery murder trial was kept in Calumet County. Do I believe that either Lenk or Colborn planted evidence? I still have strong doubts about that. But wasn’t it Kratz who had the evidence? Wasn’t it he who had the keys and codes to all of the offices, likely including the evidence room at the Calumet County Sheriff’s headquarters? When we really closely examine the character of Ken Kratz, what do we see? He cheats on his wives and girl friends; he coerces vulnerable women into sex; and he does these things not once, not twice, but dozens of times spanning long stretches of time; he denies and discredits his victims, and whatever he does to his victims, he does it callously and unapologetically.
Now that I have a much fuller understanding of who Ken Kratz really is, I strongly believe he is so utterly lacking in character as a human being that he would have readily used anything he could have laid his hands on to make the case against Avery. I have my suspicions about Hillegas, but I am sure about Kratz.