Eight years after Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were convicted in the brutal murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach, a new Netflix series has thousands asking: Are the right men in prison? Subscribe now for shocking new details about the controversial conviction, only in PEOPLE!
In the small town of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, roiled by the twists in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, there is little doubt among neighbors of Steven Avery, who was convicted of murder in 2007, that the correct killer is in jail.
Steven Avery – who maintains his innocence – is guilty and it’s wrong to argue otherwise, says every one of 10 neighbors of the Avery family who spoke with PEOPLE. (Each requested anonymity.)
“We hope he doesn’t get out because of this,” says a neighbor who has watched the riveting Netflix criminal justice series Making a Murderer, which opens up questions regarding Avery’s case and presents his defense attorneys’ argument that Avery was framed by Manitowoc County authorities.
“If you don’t live here, I can see how you would view it and think there are questions,” the neighbor tells PEOPLE. “But those of us who live here know that he’s guilty.”
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Two Rivers, pop. 12,000, boasts a tourist-friendly downtown on the shore of Lake Michigan and is about 90 miles north of Milwaukee. About 10 miles from downtown, a collection of Avery family homes sit near the family-run salvage yard in an area of small dairy farms, cornfields, farmhouses and dilapidated barns.
Family members of Avery, 53, who is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for the rape and murder of Teresa, 25, declined to speak to PEOPLE.
However, Avery neighbors portrayed him as a longtime menace who made them feel uncomfortable in their own community.
Says one: “We feel safer with him in jail. He should be locked up and throw away the key.”
“I tell people, ‘If you think he’s innocent, why don’t you have him move in with you and your wife and kids?'” adds another. “What that woman went through, mutilated and begging for her life – he should just be hung and done with.”
But that same neighbor and others express sympathy for Avery’s young nephew Brendan Dassey, who at age 16 told investigators in a since-recanted confession that he was a co-conspirator in the crime. One neighbor said Dassey “idolized” his uncle, adding, “He would do anything that Steven asked him to do.”
“I just feel sorry for that Brendan Dassey,” says the first neighbor. “His uncle got him involved in that.”
Dismissed Juror: Trial Shouldn’t Have Been in Manitowoc County Because of Avery’s Reputation
A juror who was dismissed from the trial because of a family issue tells PEOPLE he believed the jury rendered their verdict based on Avery’s past and not the facts of the case.
“You have to think of all the things he did when he was younger. People who remembered those events swayed the [other jurors],” the dismissed juror, Richard Mahler, tells PEOPLE.
Mahler added, “The jury didn’t make the decision based on the evidence.”
Mahler said that because of Avery’s reputation, the trial shouldn’t have been in Manitowoc County, even though Avery wanted to be tried in his home county.
“Steven wanted that, but it shouldn’t have been that way,” he said.
• With reporting by KARI LYDERSEN