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For a mill worker, blowing the whistle had deadly results 'Justice for Tom'

May 17, 1995|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Sun Staff Correspondent

But at the disciplinary hearing, Mr. Kutska learned that the guard hadn't acted on instinct. Someone, he was told, had tipped the Green Bay police, who alerted plant security.

Mr. Kutska was determined to find the snitch. On Nov. 16, Mr. Kutska called the police himself. He said he'd been framed by a co-worker who had cost him a week's pay, and he asked for a copy of the tape. "He gave this sad story," Chief Langan said.

The police officer helpfully said he'd locate the recording. At work, Mr. Kutska boasted he'd soon know who had turned him in.

Mr. Monfils, meanwhile, also began calling the police -- frantically. He'd heard Mr. Kutska was out to find the guy who had tipped the security guard.

On Nov. 17, Mr. Monfils called a police lieutenant and told his story: how he'd called police, hoping they'd investigate; how the police instead had bounced the tip back to the plant security shed; how the thief now wanted the tape, and how worried Mr. Monfils was.

"Tom stated . . . he feared for his own safety if the tape would get out," the police documents say. "He stated he was worried that he would disappear some night and not show up at home. Based upon his experience with the individual involved, he stated that 'no way do I think that he wouldn't do it.' "

The lieutenant said he was sure the tape would not be released.

Three days later, still worried, Mr. Monfils called the district attorney's office and went through the story again. An assistant Brown County district attorney immediately called the police department and asked that the tape not be released.

But messages weren't relayed to the correct people, Chief Langan said.

A police officer who was unaware of Mr. Monfils' pleas checked with the Green Bay city attorney's office. Under Wisconsin law, he was told, the tape was public information and Mr. Kutska was entitled to it.

On Nov. 20, the same day Mr. Monfils was begging the district attorney for protection, the police gave Mr. Kutska the tape.

He called Marlyn Charles, president of the United Paper Workers International Union Local 327, and played the tape for him. Mr. Charles, who is charged with a misdemeanor in the Monfils case, advised Mr. Kutska to gather some witnesses and confront his accuser. Once they had a confession, Mr. Charles allegedly said, the union could take action. And if Mr. Monfils was bounced from the local, he could not keep his job at James River.

The confrontation

Nov. 21 was a Saturday, and Mr. Kutska arrived at the mill before 5 a.m. to relieve a co-worker who wanted to go deer hunting. He allegedly carried with him a cassette player and the police tape, which he played again and again for anyone who would listen.

A few minutes after 7 a.m., Mr. Kutska and Randy Lepak, who was charged with a misdemeanor in the case, confronted Mr. Monfils as he worked in a sound-proof control room, police say. Michael Piaskowski, also charged in Mr. Monfils' murder, was already in the booth.

Mr. Kutska started the tape. "Hey, Piaskowski, can you name that tune?" he asked, according to court records. Mr. Monfils, according to several accounts, didn't deny that the voice was his.

Another worker told police that Mr. Piaskowski asked, "How could you do such a thing to a union member?"

Mr. Monfils did not respond.

About 7:30 a.m., Mr. Monfils left the control room to do a "turnover," a procedure that involves taking a full roll of paper off a machine and starting a new one. It was the last time most of his co-workers saw him alive.

'A happy-go-lucky guy'

In the days before his death, Mr. Monfils did not let on to his extended family -- including three sisters and two brothers -- that he was in fear for his life.

He called a sister, Yvonne, Friday night to ask what dish he and his wife should take to the big Thanksgiving dinner the next week. He was his usual upbeat self.

"He's the most positive, optimistic, happy-go-lucky guy," said David Demro, a friend who delivered the eulogy at Mr. Monfils' funeral.

And he was funny. "If you were around Tom, then you were laughing," Mr. Demro told the mourners at Mr. Monfils' funeral at St. Mary's of the Angels Catholic Church. "No one could tell a story quite the way Tom could."

His parents, sitting at their kitchen table recently, had story after story about the third of their six children -- the kid who "just loved life" and "should have been a comedian."

When he was old enough for a bicycle, he opted instead for a unicycle -- and soon he was the only unicycle-riding newspaper boy in Green Bay.

He spent four years in the Coast Guard, stationed at Atlantic City, N.J., where he won citations for search-and-rescue work.

"He was always helping people," Mrs. Monfils said.

The month before he was murdered, Tom Monfils invited his father to go up to White Potato Lake to help work on the cottage he was fixing up. The two, who had never before spent time away together, passed a couple of days working, riding trail bikes and eating in local diners.

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