(WBAY – Action 2 News) Posted: Fri 2:11PM, Dec 07, 2018 – Updated: Fri 2:31 PM, Dec 07, 2018
GREEN BAY, Wis. – One of the six men convicted with conspiring in the murder of Tom Monfils at a Green Bay paper mill in 1992 is being released from prison this month.
Michael Hirn was granted parole after almost 24 years, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections said.
In its report, the parole commission said Hirn’s sentencing judge wrote a letter of support telling them Hirn should be paroled “at the earliest possible date.”
The commission called him a “model prisoner.” It said Hirn completed vocational programs and earned minimum community custody in 2015, and began working full- and part-time jobs. He’s also an animal handler providing therapy to dogs that have been traumatized.
Hirn is approved to live with his stepfather in Green Bay.
The so-called “Monfils 6” were convicted in 1995, three years after prosecutors say the six confronted Monfils for reporting a coworker, Keith Kutska, to police for stealing from the mill. Monfils disappeared, then his body was found weighted down in a pulp vat.
Three other defendants are still in prison. Michael Johnson has a parole hearing in March, Rey Moore’s parole hearing is in July. Kutska’s next hearing is in 2021.
Dale Basten died last June, nine months after being released from prison due to his failing health.
Mike Piaskowski’s conviction was overturned in 2001 by an appeals court that ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove his involvement.
Haley BeMiller, Green Bay Press-Gazette Published 4:30 p.m. CT Dec. 7, 2018 | Updated 5:38 p.m. CT Dec. 7, 2018
GREEN BAY – One of the men convicted of conspiring to murder a Green Bay paper mill worker in 1992 will be released on parole later this month.
Michael Hirn, 54, was one of six men convicted in 1995 in the high-profile death of Tom Monfils in November 1992, along with Dale Basten, Michael Johnson, Keith Kutska, Mike Piaskowski and Rey Moore. Hirn was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, party to a crime.
Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook confirmed Hirn’s release Friday. Hirn is incarcerated at McNaughton Correctional Center in Tomahawk, according to DOC records, and has served over 23 years of his life sentence.
According to a report from the Parole Commission, Hirn was first eligible for parole in 2010. He still maintains his innocence and hopes to be exonerated someday to reinstate his voting and hunting privileges, the report states.
The Parole Commission further said Hirn demonstrated”positive” institution adjustment and was successful at multiple work release sites. He’s also completed two vocational programs in HVAC and cabinet-making.
Hirn and the other men, the so-called Monfils Six, worked at the former James River Corp. mill. According to police and the prosecution’s case, the six surrounded Monfils during a break in the paper making 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.
Prosecutors asserted Kutska instigated the attack 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.
The defendants’ lawyers at the time tried to claim someone else had committed the crime, but more recent appeals efforts by Kutska focused on the theory that Monfils could have killed himself.
When released, Hirn will live with his stepfather in Green Bay. He’s considering jobs in the HVAC and carpentry fields and plans to visit Monfils’ grave to pay his respects, according to the Parole Commission.
Three of Hirn’s co-defendants — Johnson, Kutska and Moore — are still serving life terms. Piaskowski was released from prison in 2001 when a federal appeals court found there was not enough evidence to convict him.
Basten was released in September 2017 from prison to a privately operated community facility in Appleton because of health issues. He died earlier this year at the age of 77.
Parole hearings for Johnson and Moore are scheduled for March and July of next year, respectively, Cook said. Kutska’s next parole hearing is set for March 2021.