Published 10:13 a.m. CT June 25, 2018 |
Paul Srubas Green Bay Press-Gazette USA TODAY NETWORK – WISCONSIN
GREEN BAY – Dale Basten, one of six men convicted of involvement in the high-profile murder of Tom Monfils in a Green Bay paper mill in the 1990s, has died.
The state Department of Corrections on Monday confirmed Basten died Saturday.
“Our family is obviously devastated at his loss,” said Dale’s brother, Lee Basten, in an emailed comment. “Six men tried together is a daunting task for any jury. Dale is going to his grave looking for ‘Truth and Justice.’ Hopefully others will find it.”
“Dale Basten died completely at peace with the fact that he had no hand in the death of Tom Monfils,” said Green Bay writer Denis Gullickson, who co-authored a book, “The Monfils Conspiracy: The Conviction of Six Innocent Men.” Basten “insisted on his innocence from his very first interview with the Green Bay police until his own passing on Saturday, June 23,” Gullickson said.
Still, higher courts have upheld the convictions of all but one of the original six defendants, and police and prosecutors in the case maintain they got it right, that Basten and the others conspired to kill Monfils in the mill where they all worked.
Basten, 77, was released in September from prison to a privately operated community facility in Appleton because of health issues.
The Parole Commission cited Basten’s “advancing, maturing age” and his apparent cognitive decline for the move. Members of the commission had met with him previously and found that Basten had “little awareness” that he was in prison or why he was there.
He served most of the last decade at the Stanley Correctional Institution.
Basten recently underwent surgery for undisclosed health problems and had been in decline since at least 2014, according to friends of his family.
Although still in custody and under constant monitoring and supervision, Basten was the second of those convicted of conspiring to kill Monfils to make his way out of maximum security. The first was Mike Piaskowski, whose conviction was overturned by order of a federal appeals court in 2001.
Basten, along with Michael Johnson, Keith Kutska, Michael Hirn and Rey Moore, unsuccessfully appealed their convictions multiple times and in various courts through the years.
In a 2009 interview with the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Basten echoed the other defendants’ assertions that their convictions were based on an erroneous police theory.
Prosecutors asserted Kutska instigated an attack on Monfils, 35, in the former James River papermill in November 1992 in retaliation for Monfils snitching on Kutska for a minor theft from the mill. Kutska, who served a three-day suspension from the mill for stealing a piece of extension wire, learned from a police recording that Monfils had phoned in a report of the theft.
Kutska obtained the recording and, upon his return to the mill, played it for several of his co-workers. Kutska has admitted all that but denies that he played the tape to whip up violence against Monfils or that he and the other defendants actually committed any violence against Monfils.
According to police and the prosecution’s case, the six men surrounded Monfils during a break in the papermaking process and beat him to unconsciousness. Then, out of fear of losing their jobs, they tied a weight to the unconscious man and dumped him into a paper pulp vat. Monfils’ body was recovered the next day after workers drained the vat.
Basten’s specific role was never made completely clear in the police account, but witnesses testified he was present in the paper machine control room when Kutska played the tape on the morning of Monfils’ disappearance. One witness, David Weiner, testified that he saw Basten and Johnson carrying something heavy, presumably Monfils’ body, near the pulp vat that morning.
Regarding Basten’s death, Piaskowski said, “No matter what people want to believe, the absolute truth is that Dale Basten was wrongfully accused and unfairly convicted. When Dale Basten passed away, the state of Wisconsin finished taking the life of a 100 percent innocent man.”
Basten, father of two adult daughters, divorced their mother two years after his conviction, in 1997, after 12 years of marriage. He lost his appeal of a court order that granted his ex-wife his pension money.
However, he remained on good terms with his family, who has maintained his innocence.
He attended Premontre High School for a time, and he began working for Northern paper mill, later known as James River, in 1961. He remained there for 35 years, according to Gullickson’s book, which he cowrote with Piaskowski’s former brother-in-law, John Gaie.
Prior to his arrest, Basten was interested in motorcycles, boating, fishing, snowmobiling and playing guitar, according to the book. The book sparked annual protests in front of the Brown County Courthouse on the anniversary date of the convictions. Piaskowski and members of the defendants’ families are among the group, which has reached up to about 60 people. Piaskowski, family members and others still meet regularly to discuss possible appeal strategies and promote letter-writing campaigns, especially to the state Parole Board.
Gullickson said Monday each of the defendants were offered immunity in exchange for testimony, and none took the deal.
“Except for these few last months when he was released as a geriatric burden to the state, Dale lived out the rest of his life incarcerated for a conviction unsupported by the facts,” Gullickson said. “This is just one more of the many tragedies in this case — beginning with Tom’s death. Obviously our hearts go out to all involved.”
The book also sparked a second book, Reclaiming Lives, by Joan Treppa of Minneapolis, a self-identified social justice advocate who also helped spearhead Kutska’s most recent appeal, filed by Minneapolis lawyer Steven Kaplan. The unsuccessful appeal claimed that Monfils had actually killed himself, that the medical examiner mistakenly ruled the death a homicide, and that the defendants’ previous lawyers failed to pursue the possibility of suicide as a cause of death when building defense strategies.
Kaplan declined to comment about Basten’s death. Treppa wrote in an email, “The passing of Dale Basten is as tragic as the life he was forced to live. I place blame on Brown County and the State of Wisconsin for inadvertently instigating another death as a result of this injustice!”
Posted: Mon 9:40 AM, Jun 25, 2018 | Updated: Mon 10:31 AM, Jun 25, 2018
OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – One of the men convicted in the “Monfils 6” murder case has died.
Dale Basten passed away the morning of Saturday, June 23, in Outagamie County, according to a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Basten was 77-years-old.
Basten was granted parole in Sept. 2017 due to his failing health. In a report, the parole commissioner stated that Basten appeared to be unaware of his surroundings. He was placed in an assisted living facility, but still subject to electronic monitoring.
Basten and five other men were convicted of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in 1995 for the death of paper mill co-worker Tom Monfils.
In 1992, Monfils’s body was recovered from a pulp vat at the James River mill in Green Bay.
Three years later, police arrested suspects later dubbed the “Monfils 6.” They were charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide.
The prosecution said the men conspired to kill Monfils, who had heard one of the suspects, Keith Kutska, talk about stealing an electrical cord from the mill. It is alleged that Monfils reported it to police, but his anonymity was compromised when Keith Kutska obtained a tape of Monfils’ call to police.
The prosecution accused Kutska and the other men of forming a group to take revenge on Monfils.
Investigators said Monfils had been beaten and a weight had been tied around his neck.
Another co-worker told police that Kutska had told him all the details of the killing of Monfils.
All six men were convicted at jury trial.
In 2001, Michael Piaskowski’s conviction was overturned for lack of evidence and he was freed.
Keith Kutska, Michael L. Johnson, Reynold Moore, and Michael Hirn remain behind bars. The Parole Board has either denied or deferred their requests for parole.
The United States Supreme Court denied Kutska’s petition for a writ of certiorari, which is a document asking the high court to review the decision of a lower court.
Kutska had mounted his appeal based on what his attorneys claimed was new evidence in the case. The defense was granted an evidentiary hearing to present an argument that Monfils killed himself.
However, a judge ruled there was not evidence to grant Kutska a new trial. His subsequent appeal was denied.
Reynold Moore’s parole was deferred in May.
Basten served his time in Green Bay Correctional Institution, Stanley Correctional Institution and Dodge Correctional Institution until he was released 22 years after sentencing.
Dale Basten, convicted in Monfils’ murder, granted parole
WAUPUN – One of the men convicted of murdering Green Bay paper mill worker Thomas Monfils in 1995 was paroled to a Fox Valley assisted living facility on Tuesday.
Dale Basten, 76, was released from the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun and transferred to the undisclosed care center, where he will be subject to constant monitoring and supervision, according to the Wisconsin Parole Commission.
In a written decision, the commission cited Basten’s “advancing, maturing age” and apparent cognitive decline for the move.
Commission officials met with Basten last month and found that, while he should be punished to the fullest extent possible for his involvement in Monfils’ death, he had “little awareness” that he was in prison and why he was there, the decision states.
Basten was generally unresponsive to commissioners’ questions and seemed unable or uninterested in talking with them.
“It is clear from this encounter that you have little or no orientation as to your surroundings,” the commission’s decision states.
It cost the state $93,000 per year to house Basten in prison, where he required constant supervision so he wouldn’t wander into prohibited areas, according to the decision.
Monfils’ brother, Cal Monfils, wrote to the commission in support of Basten’s release. Cal Monfils has said publicly he believes his brother committed suicide.
The commission found that Basten’s risk of harming others at the assisted living facility is “negligible.” The facility has alarms on doors to alert staff should he try to escape.
He also is prohibited from having any contact with victims, witnesses and co-defendants in the case.
In addition to Basten, five other men were found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide in the 1992 death of Monfils, 35, at the former James River Corp. mill, where they all worked.
Prosecutors alleged the men beat up Monfils and dumped his unconscious body into a vat of paper slurry. Monfils was later found dead in the vat with a weight and rope tied around his neck. An autopsy revealed that he had a broken jaw, fractured skull and numerous bruises.
Police believed the attack was retaliation because Monfils notified authorities that one of the men stole electrical wiring from the mill.
Most of Basten’s co-defendants — Michael Hirn, Michael Johnson, Keith Kutska and Rey Moore — are still serving life terms. Mike Piaskowski was released from prison in 2001 when a federal appeals court found there was not enough evidence to convict him.
Basten has always maintained his innocence.