Monfils murder defendant paroled, another to be freed Wednesday, leaving just one in prison

Paul Srubas, Green Bay Press-Gazette Published 12:56 p.m. CT July 2, 2019 | Updated 2:43 p.m. CT July 2, 2019

WAUPUN – Rey Moore, one of six men convicted in the 1992 murder of Tom Monfils in a Green Bay paper mill, was released from prison on parole Tuesday morning.

Moore, 72, was being held at the John C. Burke Correctional Center in Waupun.

Another defendant, Michael Johnson, 71, was granted parole last month and will be released from Sanger B. Powers Correctional Center in Oneida Wednesday morning, according to the state Division of Corrections.

Three other defendants have been released:

  • Michael Hirn, 54, was released on parole in December.
  • Dale Basten, 77,died in June 2018, 10 months after being paroled for health reasons.
  • Mike Piaskowski, 70, was released in 2001 after a federal judge ruled there had been insufficient evidence to convict him.

After Johnson’s release Wednesday, that will leave just one defendant, Keith Kutska, 68, imprisoned. Kutska, identified by police and prosecutors as the ringleader of the murder, is eligible for parole in May 2021.

They were convicted in 1995 in Brown County Circuit Court of conspiring to murder Monfils, 35, at the former James River Mill in Green Bay.

All of the defendants have continued to deny killing Monfils.

Monfils’ body was found in a pulp vat in the mill with a 50-pound weight tied to him. Police concluded co-workers killed him after Monfils had reported Kutska for stealing scrap wire from the mill. Kutska was suspended for three days for refusing to let mill security guards search his duffel bag. During his time off, he persuaded Green Bay police to turn over a tape recording of Monfils’ anonymous tip about the theft.

When Kutska returned to work, he played the recording for many co-workers. Police and prosecutors claim Kutska whipped up enough anti-Monfils sentiment among his co-workers that the six suspects surrounded Monfils, roughed him up, knocked him unconscious and then, fearing the loss of their jobs, dumped him into the pulp vat.

The defendants have suggested through the appeals process that either someone else did it or that Monfils had taken his own life.

Piaskowski has remained active in grassroots efforts to get the other men free. The group has been writing letters to the parole board, the governor and others. They also have helped bring lawyers from the Innocence Project on board to launch additional appeals.

The group formed shortly after publication of the book, “The Monfils Conspiracy: The Conviction of Six Innocent Men.” Piaskowski helped local authors Denis Gullickson and John Gaie on the book.

Piaskowski said today Moore’s release came as a surprise because his group had been focusing on Johnson’s impending release.

His only comment was “Whether people want to accept it or not, this case is, without a doubt, the largest miscarriage of justice in Wisconsin state history, maybe even in the entire modern day United States of America.”

Gullickson said he was elated, and he reiterated comments he made at the release of another of the defendants, Michael Hirn, in December. In that instance, Gullickson talked about the major life changes that Hirn had missed, like the loss of his mother and the graduation of his son, that happened while he was in prison.

In both cases, Gullickson said, the men are stepping into freedom “as innocent as the day (they) were arrested and as innocent as the day (they) were convicted.”

Joan Treppa, an author and wrongful-conviction activist who has befriended the Monfils defendants, spoke of the injustice the six men experienced and of how each parole is a personal victory that serves as a collective victory for all of them. Speaking of Moore, who was a longtime friend of her sister’s, Treppa said, “I cannot fathom why one of the kindest, gentlest men was labeled as a murderer and taken from his family.”

Posted on: July 5, 2019Jared Manninen

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