Oneida, Wis. (WFRV) Another member of the “Monfils 6” was released on parole from prison Wednesday. Kris Schuller was there as Michael Johnson walked out a free man after serving 24 years for murder.
Michael Johnson walked out of Sanger Powers Correctional in Oneida and was welcomed by his wife, family and supporters.
“Just very happy, very happy to be walking out of there for the last time,” said Johnson family spokesperson Joan Treppa.
Johnson, 71, along with five other men – Rey Moore, Mike Hirn, Dale Basten, Mike Piaskowski and Keith Kutska, were sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for the murder of paper mill worker Thomas Monfils.
Monfils’ body was found in 1992 in a pulp vat at the James River Paper Mill with a 50-pound weight around his neck. Monfils and all six men convicted worked at that facility.
Prosecutors said the men killed Monfils because he reported co-worker Kutska to supervisors at the mill for stealing an extension cord.
All the suspects have maintained their innocence.
“These men aren’t monsters or union thugs or murders,” Treppa said.
Treppa, who has written a book about the case, spoke on Johnson’s behalf concerning his release.
“They’re excited, they’re nervous, they’re scared,” she said.
Treppa says the weeks and months ahead will be difficult and it will take time for everyone to adjust.
“They’re going to be out walking the streets in this town and they don’t know who they are going to come across. They don’t know who is going to say congratulations or go to hell,” said Treppa.
Johnson’s release mean that Keith Kutska is the only member of the Monfils 6 to remain in prison. Kutska is reportedly eligible for parole in May of 2021.
Johnson is the fifth defendant to be released. Rey Moore was paroled just Tuesday, Mike Hirn in 2018, Dale Basten in 2017 and Mike Piaskowski released from prison by a federal judge in 2001.