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Green Bay's 'Monfils 6' revisited in new documentary

Beyond Human Nature
Posted at 6:24 PM, May 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-01 19:24:23-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — A case that rocked Green Bay 30 years ago and continues to spark debate is in the spotlight again.

Milwaukee filmmaker Michael Neelsen is reopening the conversation on Green Bay's "Monfils 6" in his new documentary, "Beyond Human Nature."

"It's about telling this story to a new audience that maybe wasn't aware of it," Neelsen said.

The documentary, shown on Monday at the Milwaukee Film Festival, tells the story of a paper mill employee, Tom Monfils, who was found at the bottom of a pulp vat at the James River Paper Mill in 1992.

Three years after the initial incident, six of Tom's coworkers, who would later be known as the "Monfils 6," were convicted of his murder and sentenced to life in prison.

However, the "Monfils 6" maintained their innocence throughout the years, saying they were wrongfully convicted; and developments surfaced years later that pointed to suicide as a potential cause for Monfils' death.

Neelsen, who is a Milwaukee native and has been making films since sixth grade, said he wasn't originally familiar with the story and learned about it during a screening at the Green Bay Film Festival for another film he made, "Last Day at Lambeau."

He said he was approached by an advocacy group on behalf of the "Monfils 6" and was instantly "intrigued."

"If it weren't for the O.J. trial taking up the national headlines, perhaps this would have been the big national case at that time because it's just that crazy," he said.

Neelsen spent the next nine years with a Wisconsin crew traveling back and forth to Green Bay to study documents, do interviews and film for the documentary.

"We talked to everybody that we could on all sides," Neelsen said.

He said the goal of the film was to build trust with the audience by telling the story from all sides and letting people come to their own conclusions if justice was served.

"The biggest cue that we did our job right is that people don't come out with one idea," Neelsen said. "People come out still arguing."

Today, the mill is owned by Georgia-Pacific and just one of the "Monfils 6," Keith Kutska, remains in prison. He was denied parole in 2021.

Neelsen said people are going to continue to talk about whether they think Tom Monfils was murdered by the "Monfils 6" or committed suicide.

"No matter what you think, it feels beyond human nature, and I think that prevents a certain amount of closure," Neelsen said. "It makes people kind of keep going over and over and over in their brains because they can't quite wrap their own heads around the behavior."

The film will be available on Tuesday to rent or buy digitally on platforms like Amazon Prime, Vudu, Xbox and DIRECTV.