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Six Men Convicted of Murdering Fellow Worker in Vat of Paper Pulp

October 29, 1995

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ Six paper mill workers were convicted Saturday of murdering a police informant found in a vat of pulp with a 50-pound weight tied around his neck.

The six turned on Thomas Monfils on Nov. 21, 1992, for calling police about a plan to steal an extension cord from the James River Corp. mill where they worked, a Circuit Court jury ruled after five weeks of testimony.

Michael Hirn, 25, Rey Moore, 48, Keith Kutska, 44, Mike Piaskowski, 46, Dale Basten, 53, and Michael L. Johnson, 47, face mandatory life sentences.

They were convicted of being a party to first-degree murder for beating up Monfils out of revenge and anger, then dumping him in the vat of mud-like paper pulp after they realized he was badly hurt.

Monfils, 35, suffocated in the vat. His murder led the Wisconsin Legislature to enact a law designed to shield the identities of police informants.

``These defendants, by themselves, might not have been capable of doing this,″ District Attorney John Zakowski told the jury. ``But as Emerson said, `A mob is man descending to the level of beast.‴

Sentencing hearings will be scheduled for the six on Monday.

All six men denied any role in Monfils’ death or any knowledge of what happened to him.

According to prosecutors, Kutska obtained a transcript of an anonymous 911 call Monfils made to police reporting Kutska planned to walk out of the mill carrying the cord in a duffle bag.

Security guards tried to stop Kutska and check his bag, but he refused. The refusal prompted company officials to suspend Kutksa for five days without pay.

Mill workers testified that on the morning Monfils disappeared from his work station, Kutska was playing the police tape for anyone who would listen and the mood was one of growing anger.

In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Larry Lasee told the jury prosecutors could show only that a group of workers were angry at Monfils because they had evidence he was a police snitch.

``What happened from that point in time, we may never know,″ Lasee said.

A wrongful death lawsuit against the six and two others, alleging basically the same theory of what happened as in the murder trial, is pending.

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