Cal Monfils kept quiet all these years.  His brother died in 1992 and six men were convicted of murdering him in a Green Bay paper mill.  But, Cal believes his brother committed suicide and is speaking out.

“It’s almost more believable than that six guys kept a secret for 20 years for what they say was union brotherhood,” Monfils said.

In 1995, the six men were convicted by a jury of conspiracy to murder Thomas Monfils. Mike Piaskowski, one of the 6, has since been freed by a federal judge who ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him.  The other 5 men continue to serve their sentences.  All maintain their innocence.

Police and prosecutors say that the men were angry that Tom Monfils reported that one of them stole from the mill they all worked at.  The union mob then confronted Monfils for being a “snitch” and beat him into unconsciousness.  They then tied a 40 lb. weight to his neck using a jump rope that Monfils was known to use during his breaks and threw him into a paper pulp vat.  His body was found the next day. Cal Monfils, 47, of Green Bay finds himself in an unusual position for a victim’s family member, he supports the defendants’ bid for freedom.  Cal says he is at odds with most of his family, but can’t just ignore that the men are innocent. Back in the 1990s, his brother’s death was unsolved.  Police secretly recorded conversations, raided garbage cans, and took extreme measures to reinvigorate the investigation, but nothing worked.

Cal Monfils said, “It kind of makes you think there was nothing [to find].”

Monfils said that police even once sent him undercover to talk to one of the defendants Michael Hirn, in hopes that he would admit something.

“He said, ‘Cal, I don’t know what happened…But the police have it wrong…”

Cal said that his family contacted the FBI because they believed the police were not heading in the right direction.

Cal Monfils said, “I’m not saying I believed him, but it raised doubt.”

That doubt has continued to grow.  He was unconvinced during the trial and was not disappointed when in 2001 Mike Piaskowski was released. Monfils even said that he read The Monfils Conspiracy, a book by local authors criticizing the investigation, which has only strengthened his suspicions. Monfils says he believes the Minnesota Innocence Project’s theory instead.  Tom Monfils committed suicide.  The MIP is representing the 5 remaining defendants.

“It’s my brother, and I don’t want to say that, but it’s a possibility,” Monfils said, “I feel bad for his wife, his kids and everybody if it happened that way, but it sure would be terrible to have six lives put away for nothing.”

Tom Monfil’s widow, Susan, even originally thought it was suicide, according to Cal. The defense states in newly filed court documents that that information was never shared with the defendants, their original trial lawyers, or the jury.  Neither was the fact that Tom Monfils was depressed and stressed out in his troubled marriage.  He also was ostracized for reporting the theft of an extension cord by a fellow employee, Keith Kutska.

Cal Monfils accepts the claim by defense lawyers that investigators should have at least given credence to that theory.  Those defense lawyers, who have mounted an effort to get a new trial for the men, claim the original defense lawyers were lulled into accepting a false conclusion by the medical examiner that it was a murder. Independent medical experts dispute the findings of then-ME Dr. Helen Young.  She found that Monfils’ body received injuries consistent with being beaten before he was thrown into the vat.  Medical experts now say that the injuries were more likely to be the result of Monfils’ body hitting the vat.

“If you get a diagnosis from a doctor, people will tell you to get a second opinion, yet they got one opinion from the coroner,” Cal Monfils said. “One person…”

The lawyers of the Minnesota Innocence Project, who took up the case after friends of the authors of “The Monfils Conspiracy” shared the book, filed motions seeking a new trial “in the interest of justice.” Interestingly, the case was automatically assigned for appeal to Judge John Zakowski, who was the prosecuting district attorney when the six men were convicted.

He joked, “I could have taken care of it in 10 minutes,” needless to say, it was reassigned.

Zakowski defends the convictions as he has done for years, “…now the argument is he wasn’t even murdered,” Zakowski said, “It’s just ridiculous.”

The 6 men and the authors of the book say that the investigators concocted the “union confrontation”. Zakowski recalled his closing argument at the trial, in which he held up a diagram of the autopsy and told the jury, “Tom Monfils is talking to us; his body is providing evidence. He’s saying, ‘Look at me, Look at what they did…” Zakowski believes that there were too many injuries to be consistent with the defense’s theory.

Judge Thomas Walsh will consider the motion for a new trial.

The 5 defendants are:

  • Michael Hirn, 50.
  • Michael Johnson, 67.
  • Reynold Moore, 67.
  • Dale Basten, 73.
  • Keith Kutska, 63.

All men have either been denied parole or have not yet been considered for the first time.  All the men were convicted of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide and sentenced to life with parole.

  1. joanvanh says:

    Also, this case – now widely known as The Monfils Conspiracy – is back in court with new expert testimony concerning the autopsy conclusions of Green Bay Coroner Genie Williams and other new facts. Out of local hands through their unwillingness to right this wrong, the denial of a new trial from Green Bay WI courts have opened the door to enter the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The appeal has been filed this week.


  2. joanvanh says:

    These men will never see parole because they have not been broken by the state that has wrongly convicted them. After nearly a quarter century in prison, not one will claim guilt for a crime they did not commit. That is defiance in the eyes of a parole board and the now Judge who was the prosecutor in this case. We are taking great care to share details about this case that was kept well obscured from public view and scrutiny. We will never give up speaking the truth about this crime committed against six innocent men and their families.


Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s