Are killers making money off their own crimes?

Posted at 7:12 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 13:47:23-05

A popular new Netflix series is earning extra cash for convicted killer Steven Avery and some of his supporters, but crime victim advocates argue it should be illegal.

There are laws that are supposed to prevent killers from profiting off the crimes they commit, but how the law is written doesn’t address what the I-Team has uncovered.

“Being the mother of a murdered son, I don’t like seeing it on TV all the time,” Barb Prevort said.

Prevort is in charge of the Greater Milwaukee Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.

As if murder isn't tragic enough, sentimental items and other merchandise related to cold-blooded killers flood the internet.

Victim advocates call it “murderabilia," and we found some items selling for thousands of dollars.

From a lock of Charles Manson’s hair to a Jeffrey Dahmer signed greeting card, people are willing to pay big bucks for just about anything!

“It makes me upset and mad,” Prevort said. “Why are people making money off our loss?”

Most recently, Steven Avery merchandise is making the rounds online.

Avery was convicted of murdering Teresa Halbach in 2005.

On Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items, Steven Avery T-shirts, bracelets and stickers are up for sale.

We discovered some of the listings say they’ll even give a portion of the proceeds back to Avery and his family.

"I don't think it's right that the survivors should have to see all this stuff on the internet or see people buying all this stuff,” Prevort said. “That just re-victimizes the survivors to no end."

Whether selling items belonging to or resembling a killer is appropriate depends on who you ask.

"Just like most of the nation I got involved heavily in the Netflix series,” Laura Madary said.

Madary says after watching “Making a Murderer,” she decided to craft Steven Avery Valentine’s Day cards. 

"Usually when I'm a fan of a program, the way I express my fandom is through cards,” she said.

Unlike other sellers on Etsy, Laura has made it clear that none of the money from any of the cards she’s sold on Etsy will go to Avery or his family.

"In the case of Steven Avery, I feel like his face should be in the media because in my opinion, they didn't prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.

That opinion was formed based on the Netflix documentary released in December 2015.

However, prosecutors claim the documentary’s producers left out key evidence which they say proves Avery is guilty.

Since Avery remains a convicted killer behind bars, “Son of Sam” laws are supposed to prevent him from making any proceeds from his crime.

However, we learned “Son of Sam” laws only apply to profits resulting from the sale of a book, publication or movie.

“As it currently stands, it is not illegal to sell murderabilia,” Brian Fahl, an attorney with Kravit Hovel & Krawczyk and an adjust professor at Marquette Law School said. “Whether it’s ethically or morally right is a separate question.”

Madary says she’s only made one card using Steven Avery's mug shot. She says card making is more of a hobby for her, not a business and has no future plans to make additional Avery cards.

Advocates like Barb say hobby or not, she’d like to see a ban on all memorabilia related to convicted killers.

eBay no longer allows users to sell items related to killers, but that hasn’t stopped other web sites from popping up.
It’s unclear how much money Avery and his family has collected so far from merchandise sales.

You can read more about “Son of Sam” laws in Wisconsin and other states here.