Manitowoc sheriff under fire in 1999 homicide

MANITOWOC – The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department, which has been accused of framing Steven Avery for a 1985 rape and planting numerous clues to convict Avery for the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach, has also been dogged by allegations it mishandled the 1999 hit-and-run death of a 17-year-old boy, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin has learned.

The homicide of Ricky Hochstetler, who was struck by a vehicle while walking to his home along a frontage road, remains unsolved. The crime occurred at about 2:20 a.m. on Jan. 10, 1999 during a snowstorm.

Weeks after the boy’s death, a number of sheriff’s department employees began to suspect that an off-duty deputy — after a night of drinking — struck and killed the rural Manitowoc teenager.

Even the traffic patrol lieutenant who was in charge of the investigation was aware of the allegations, indicate reports reviewed by USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. However, both Lt. Mike Bushman and then-Sheriff Tom Kocourek’s administration declined to probe the activities of the two deputies who were being mentioned as possible suspects — Lt. Rob Hermann and his brother, Sgt. Todd Hermann.

Rob Hermann is now the sheriff of Manitowoc County.

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