Making A Murderer's Kathleen Zellner Also Starred In Another True Crime Film

Most of us know the powerhouse that is Kathleen Zellner as the lawyer working to free Making A Murderer's Steven Avery.

The second series of the Netflix original shows Zellner working tirelessly to provide new evidence to clear her client, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the brutal murder of Teresa Halbach.

While Zellner has recently become a household name in the UK thanks to her role in Making A Murderer Part 2, it should come as no surprise that this wasn't her first true-crime series.

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Before taking on Steven Avery's case, Kathleen had already made a name for herself for overturning wrongful convictions in the US thanks to her impressive history of exonerations.

One of her success stories is Ryan Ferguson, who featured in a true crime film currently available to stream on iTunes, called Dream/Killer, first released in 2015.

Just when we thought we couldn't be anymore horrified watching the conviction of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, Ryan Ferguson was convicted of murder off the back of a single phone call and a person's dream-like memories.

We'll start from the beginning.

In 2001, a man called Kent Heitholt was found dead in a carpark outside his place of work after being strangled with his own belt.

Two years later, while the case remained unsolved, police were offered a fresh lead when an anonymous call implicated a local man called Charles 'Chuck' Erickson.

Chuck had been high on drugs while attending a number of Halloween parties on the night of the murder. He met his then 17-year-old friend, Ryan Ferguson, at around half 10, but couldn't remember anything afterwards.

Speaking of the crime, he said: "I didn't know if it was memory, or if it was a dream. I assumed that if I'd done it, Ryan and I did it to get more money for drinks."

Chuck later incriminated himself and his friend Ryan during a police interview, which was shown in the film, and Ryan was later picked up by the FBI.

Credit: Discovery
Credit: Discovery

In his police interview, Ferguson was told his friend had information of things that were never released to the press, but he maintained he had no idea what happened.

"I don't know what the hell [Chuck is] talking about..." he told them. "I don't know if he's lying, I don't know if he was there. I am telling the truth... There's nothing else I can say or do to prove my innocence."

State prosecutor Kevin Crane then issued a statement informing the press that Chuck was being charged with murder in the second degree and Ferguson was being charged with murder in the first degree.

Two years later, a then 20-year-old Ferguson stood trial, with the main evidence being testimony from Erickson who talked of memories that'd come to him since talking to the police. It took less than six hours for the jury to find Ferguson guilty of murder in the second degree and first-degree robbery. He was sentenced to a total of 40 years.

Ferguson's dad, Bill, began his own amateur investigation in a bid to free his son but after presenting new leads and new witnesses an evidentiary hearing, the judge refused to grant a retrial and denied his appeal.

Credit: Discovery
Credit: Discovery

This is when Kathleen Zellner stepped in.

After seeing Ryan's case on a TV programme and made a note of the family name so that if they ever contacted her, she would take the case pro bono.

So when Bill contacted her via email, she called him straight back - and with the same determination seen in Making A Murderer Part 2, Zellner was adamant to prove Ferguson's innocence.

New witnesses came to light and Zellner discovered seven unidentified fingerprints at the scene, none of which matched Ferguson or Chuck.

In a new hearing, both Chuck and a second witness retracted their original statements, but the defence lost their appeal.

Not deterred by this, Zellner then took Ferguson's case to oral argument - which we saw happen to Brendan Dassey's appeal process. This time, it went in his favour and in 2013, he was released after spending 10 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Speaking of the case, Zellner said: "You could not have a bigger failure, in the police investigation and the whole judicial system."

The true-crime film, Dream/Killer, is available to download from iTunes right now.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Junior Journalist at PRETTY52. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the team in 2017. Contact her on emma.rosemurgey@pretty52.com

Next Up

arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up camera clock comment cursor email facebook-messenger facebook Instagram link new-window phone play share snapchat submit twitter vine whatsapp