by associated press
GREEN BAY - One of six men accused in the murder of a fellow millworker admitted in February 1994 he killed Thomas Monfils, a woman testified Monday.
Dodie Verstrate said she met Keith Kutska when he worked on a house with her husband and they became friends.
One day when the men were pouring cement, Kutska told her ""I am the one that killed Thomas Monfils,"' Verstrate testified in Brown County Circuit Court.
Verstrate testified during the first day of a preliminary hearing for the men accused of beating Monfils, tying a 40-pound weight to his neck and tossing him in a two-story pulp vat Nov. 21, 1992, at James River Corp. The 35-year-old's body was found the next day.
Kutska, 44, of Abrams was among six men arrested April 12 and charged with being party to first-degree intentional homicide in Monfils' slaying. Also arrested were Reynold C. Moore, 48, of De Pere; Mike Hirn, 25, Mike Piaskowski, 46, Michael L. Johnson, 47, and Dale M. Basten, 53, all of Green Bay.
Facing misdemeanor counts of harassing and intimidating Monfils are local union president Marlyn W. Charles, 37, of Green Bay and another worker, Randy R. Lepak, 36, of Maple Grove, along with Kutska, Hirn and Piaskowski.
The preliminary hearing was for the six facing the homicide charge. Kutska, Moore, Hirn and Johnson appeared in court in prison jumpsuits and leg irons. Basten and Piaskowski, out on bail, wore sport coats.
Monfils' widow Susan, seated in the back row of the courtroom, wiped tears from her eyes during Verstrate's testimony.
Verstrate said Kutska told her the one mistake they made was throwing Monfils in the wrong vat. He said they should have dumped him in an acid tank or one that would have left him in pieces, she testified.
Verstrate said Kutska showed her a box filled with 3,000 pages related to the Monfils' case.
Kutska said, ""Nobody's talking and the dumb (expletives) don't have nothing on me,"' Verstrate testified.
Kutska considered Monfils a "brown-noser" and a snitch and that was his motive for killing him,
Verstrate was scheduled to undergo cross-examination Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, millworker Brian Kellner testified that he, his ex-wife and defendant Keith Kutska and his wife were at the Fox Den Bar in Oconto County on July 4 when Kutska described events leading up to the confrontation that prosecutors contend led to Monfils' murder.
Kellner testified that Kutska told him Hirn shoved Monfils and then someone slapped Monfils on the back of the head.
Kellner said he asked Kutska who slapped Monfils, but Kutska would say only that Moore had come up behind Monfils in the confrontation near the No. 7 paper machine where Monfils worked.
Kellner said Kutska placed his hand at the back of Kellner's head to demonstrate where Monfils was hit.
"He said it could have been a wrench," Kellner said. "He got right up tight to my face and showed me how Mike Hirn was in Tom's face."
Kellner testified that Kutska asked him to retrieve a page from a telephone book at Monfils' work station that listed Monfils' parents' address and had a note scribbled in the margin saying, "I shall not fear death because in death there is freedom."
There was no testimony as to who wrote the note. Kellner said Kutska told him investigators were looking for handwriting samples to see who wrote it.
A tape recording of a call to police concerning a theft at the mill was a hot topic at the mill the morning Monfils disappeared, Kellner and another witness testified.
In the tape, Monfils reported that Kutska planned to steal the cord, according to court documents.
Kellner said the six defendants were "cranked up once they found Monfils' voice was on the police recording."
The six were going to play the tape and thought "that would go out through the mill like wildfire and there would be a lot of peer pressure" against Monfils for making the call, Kellner said.