Amateur 'super-sleuth' from Minnesota trying to help exonerate 'Making A Murderer' subjects
FARGO—Details of the Netflix documentary series "Making A Murderer" rattle off Krystyne Frandson's tongue as easily as a mother reciting her children's names and birthdates.
But the 45-year-old Hawley, Minn., woman isn't just transfixed by the onscreen drama, as countless other were after the series was released in late December.
Frandson has immersed herself in the real-life case that was the focus of the 10-part documentary. She's even going to Manitowoc, Wis., in a few weeks for a rally aimed at drawing attention to what she and others believe is the innocence of the two men convicted in the murder case the series examines.
"Passionate is a good word but probably obsessed, if we're being honest," Frandson said.
Since "Making A Murderer" came out about five months ago, Frandson has watched the 10-part installment six full times. That's amounts to a 60-hour time investment without even counting when she's gone back to re-watch certain witness testimony and specific interrogations.
That hyperfocus is due to her belief that Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey, both serving life terms in Wisconsin for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach, were wrongfully convicted and should be set free.
"I couldn't quit thinking about it," Frandson said.
Prior to the murder conviction, Avery had already spent 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Advanced DNA evidence proved his innocence, and he was released. But as he was pursuing a $36 million civil lawsuit against those who wrongfully put him behind bars, Halbach was murdered and Avery was pinned as the suspect.
The possibility that Avery, operator of an auto salvage yard, was wrongfully convicted a second time was too much for Frandson to bear.
She dove into online research and dedicated Facebook groups, believing that law enforcement had many viable suspects but honed in on Avery, in part, because of his legal action and reputation in the community.
Since then, she's reached out to members of the Avery family and become something of a de facto spokeswoman.
"I've got Rosie O'Donnell following me on Twitter because of this, seriously," Frandson said. "It's that far down the rabbit hole."
An 'amateur sleuth'
A few weeks after her first run-through of "Making A Murderer," Frandson ran across a woman in a Facebook group chat who seemed to know a lot about the case and a possible suspect who was never questioned in the murder. She private messaged the woman, and they started a long dialogue.
"She'd been watching this case for years, and she unloaded on me," Frandson said.
Frandson thought the information was valuable, so she reached out to the family, who put her in touch with Chicago attorney Kathleen Zellner, who recently took on Avery's case and is known for getting wrongful convictions overturned.
She said she spoke by phone with Zellner and ended up turning over 150 pages of information to her. And she's not the only one.
Zellner's website encourages people to contact her with tips, turning it into what some are calling a "crowdsourcing investigation."
"We're all amateur super sleuths after you watch something like this," Frandson said. "You'd be surprised at how many free investigators Kathleen's got working for her."
Zellner has stated it's not her desire to win Avery a new trial, but to uncover new evidence pointing to a different suspect, and to get Avery's conviction and sentence vacated.
"She's fresh on it, so her mind was wide open," Frandson said of her conversation with Zellner.
Righting a wrong
Frandson said she has a couple of reasons for wanting to help right any potential wrongs. Abused by alcoholic parents for the first seven years of her life, she went into foster care. Even though she was later adopted and raised in a loving home, she said she was a damaged kid who made a lot of mistakes into adulthood.
When she went through an ugly divorce and custody dispute, some of those past mistakes were used against her, she says, something that also happened to Steven Avery.
"When I thought about those things ... not on that level, but being wrongfully accused, that part touched me," Frandson said.
Another factor relates to Avery's nephew Brendan Dassey, who has some form of mental disability, and who many think was coerced into confessing and implicating his uncle.
Frandson's 14-year-old son, Jette, one of her six children, has Asperger syndrome, on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. She said he's easily influenced and doesn't deal with stress well.
"He's got a high IQ, but put in a situation, a torturous situation ... my son would do it. It hit me like a brick," Frandson said.
Rallies for innocence
Next month, Frandson will travel to Manitowoc with Jette for the #WeStand4Innocence event, one of nearly a dozen being held nationwide and overseas aimed at exonerating Avery and Dassey. A rally there June 11 will be held outside the very courthouse where the two were convicted.
Frandson expects a good turnout of people who believe as she does. She also suspect there will be plenty who she calls "guiltys," those who support the men's convictions. Some people think the directors of "Making A Murderer" purposely left out evidence, deliberately swaying the audience to believe the men are innocent.
She hopes all of the attention leads to change for the men behind bars and the people who put them there.
"I hope he's freed, and I hope to hell they pay, and I hope to God that they provide him with the mental health services that he's going to need," she said.
In the meantime, plans are in the works for a second season of "Making A Murderer," and with Avery's appeal in the works, there could be plenty of material for it.