Over the past 18 months, a number of people have asked me about the Green Bay television markets. For the most part, these TV stations have produced few, if any, hard-hitting scoops and exclusives related to the Steven Avery case. Instead, the television stations have generally shied away from pieces that portray the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department or the Calumet County Sheriff’s Department in a negative light. Fortunately, it’s not my job to figure out why this is the case.
While many “Making a Murderer” fans may be disappointed in the Green Bay’s TV stations, there’s one Wisconsin resident who is grateful for their sub-par performance – me. Last year I was the only journalist across Northeastern Wisconsin who apparently submitted a public records request seeking access to emails sent to the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department after Making a Murderer. These emails supplied me and the USA TODAY NETWORK with a goldmine of stories such as:
Politician: Steven Avery’s eyes prove he’s guilty http://post.cr/1S2jBNS
Avery, Dassey emails rip Manitowoc sheriff http://bit.ly/2rJfURi
No Steven Avery evidence planted: Detective http://post.cr/22P61Co
Sheriff got PR help after Avery documentary http://post.cr/1qZesKf
But even some emails slipped through the cracks – until now. One came from Jessica Olstad, who made a point of mentioning to Manitowoc County Sheriff Rob Hermann that she was known as “Lauren Cook” when she worked for Fox 11 a decade ago. On Jan. 8, 2016, Olstad sent her email to Rob Hermann, calling her subject line “Extending my support.”
The former Green Bay Fox 11 TV personality wrote the Manitowoc sheriff: “Sheriff Hermann: I know that you and your entire department are getting some very unwanted attention these days. And while I know you understand that it’s an unfortunate part of your job, it doesn’t make it any less fair or warranted. I’m not sure if you remember me, and it’s not that important, but I covered the Avery and Dassey trials for Fox 11. I always thought that everyone with the department acted with grace and integrity, and it’s so hard on my heart to see the hatred and vitriol aimed at your department and the victim’s family. Further, I’m sure the Avery families are getting threats and hatred as well.”
Olstad’s next graph got right to the point – “I simply wanted to voice my support for you and your team. Those trials were the hardest I’ve ever had to cover in my news career, which I left several years ago. It gave me nightmares for months after, and I think of the Halbach family often. In fact, my husband and I think of Teresa every time we see a RAV4 on the highway … My family and I are sending up prayers and encouragement during this time. I know it’s not much, but I wanted to let you know.” – Best regards, Jessica (Lauren Cook) Olstad
Far as I can tell, Olstad/Cook was the only notable TV news media personality who covered the Avery trial and then sent the Manitowoc County Sheriff a public email correspondence, praising him and his agency’s work.
According to one of her two different LinkedIn profiles, “J. Lauren Cook” left Fox 11 news in October 2007 – months after Dassey and Avery were sent off to prison. After she left TV news, she worked at the Milwaukee public relations and communications firm of Zeppos & Associates. Nowadays, she has another LinkedIn profile called “Jessica Lauren Olstad.” That one identifies her as a Corporate Communications Manager for CommScope, which is near Minneapolis.
Given Olstad’s cozy email to Sheriff Hermann, one can’t help but wonder whether key law enforcement figures in the case have been in correspondence with her in wake of this month’s post-conviction filing by Avery’s lawyer Kathleen Zellner – coinciding with plans for a second season of “Making a Murderer.”
Then again, maybe Olstad/Cook has already beaten them to the punch.
“Thank you for your support!” three-term Manitowoc County Sheriff Rob Hermann emailed Olstad/Cook back last year. “Very nice of you to take the time. I know we will get through these trying times, but more importantly my heart goes out to the Halbach family.”