Green Bay's Paper Mill Murder

Thomas Monfils

In 1992, Tom Monfils was enjoying a quiet life with his family in the sleepy little town of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The 35-year-old, who was described by his family and friends as positive, funny, and optimistic, spent most of his time with his family and was dedicated to his job. Monfils worked at the James River paper mill in Green Bay for 10 years and was considered a trustworthy and dependable worker. He was also very rule-oriented, a conventional personality trait that was usually well-liked by others, particularly fellow employees and employers. Not everyone at the mill was good-natured like Monfils; there were a few employees that had a reputation for antagonizing others, who engaged in bully-like behavior that slipped past upper management. One of those unruly employees was Keith Kutska.

On November 10, 1992, Monfils saw his coworker, Kutska, steal a piece of 10-15 foot long cable from the mill. Known for his honest character, Monfils notified the Green Bay Police Department, who then alerted security personnel at James River. Arrested soon after, Kutska learned at his disciplinary hearing that someone at the paper mill had told on him. On November 16, Kutska called the Green Bay Police Department and requested a copy of the taped phone call. When making the request, Kutska lied to the police and stated that he had been framed by a co-worker and needed a copy of the tape in order to prove it.

The police said they would give the tape to him in a few days.

Soon after, Monfils learned that Kutska had requested a copy of the tape from the Green Bay Police Department. Fearing for his life, Monfils quickly called the police as well as the district attorney and begged them not to release the tape to Kutska. 

Regardless of Monfils' requests, the police released the tape to Kutska anyway on November 20, and he quickly found out who got him into trouble for stealing the cable.

The following morning, on November 21, Kutska came to work with the tape, which he repeatedly played for co-workers. Monfils soon arrived at the mill and began working in a sound-proof control room with his co-worker Michael Piaskowski. Kutska and another co-worker entered the room and confronted Monfils. He played the tape, taunting Monfils, who said little and soon left the control room to do other work in the building.

This is the last time Monfils was seen alive.

Kutska subsequently left the room for a smoke break shortly after Monfils left, and less than an hour later, coworkers Michael Johnson and Dale Basten were seen carrying something heavy toward one of the mill's paper vats. Workers throughout the mill became concerned about Monfils' whereabouts and reported him missing that same day.

The next day, on November 22, Monfils was found dead at the bottom of a pulp vat, with a 45-pound metal weight tied around his neck. He had been beaten and had died by suffocation and strangulation.

With few leads, the investigation into Monfils’ murder stalled. When a new detective picked up the case over a year later, witnesses came forward. One witness who was at a bar with Kutska recounted him bragging about Monfils' murder to his friends. Kutska even acted out the crime, describing how coworkers confronted Monfils about the tape and then attacked him at the mill. Immediately, detectives concluded that Monfils’ death was an act of retaliation for reporting Kutska and centered their investigation on Kutska and five other workers.

In 1995, coworkers Michael Johnson, Dale Basten, Michael Hirn, Keith Kutska, Rey Moore, and Michael Piaskowski were arrested and subsequently convicted of Party to 1st Degree Intentional Homicide and sentenced to life in prison for Monfils' murder. Since his conviction, Kutska has denied any involvement in Monfils’ death and has filed numerous motions, all of which have been denied.

In his most recent motion, Kutska claimed that Monfils committed suicide. Could this have been a possibility, or is Kutska lying? Tom Monfils’ brother, Cal Monfils, believes in Kutska’s claims. He has stated that Tom’s wife, Susan Monfils, initially thought her husband committed suicide due to his stressed out behavior throughout the days leading up to his death. In addition to stress, coworkers also believed Tom had psychological issues, as he would sometimes post news clippings of coworkers along with hurtful comments. But maybe they did not understand him; perhaps he did not have psychological issues but was just socially awkward, or had an awkward sense of humor.

So was Tom Monfils murdered or did he commit suicide? No one knows for sure. On the one hand, there was a confrontation before Monfils’ death, coworkers were seen carrying something heavy to the vat where Monfils was found, and Kutska was heard and seen bragging about Monfils’ demise. On the other hand, there was also no physical evidence to back up the prosecutor's theory that Monfils was attacked; there was no blood found at the scene or on the five coworkers, nor was the weapon found. Either way, Monfils’ death was influenced by Kutska’s behavior and actions. His attempt to do the right thing went horribly wrong, and we may never know exactly what happened in that vat room on November 21, 1992.