Trailer released for documentary on Monfils' murder

The title screen from a trailer for an upcoming documentary about the murder of Tom Monfils. (Image courtest StoryFirst Media.)

The recent documentary "Making A Murderer" raised awareness and questions about one of the area's highest profile murders: Steven Avery's conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Now, the trailer has been released for a documentary in the works about another of the area's more notorious cases - the conviction of six men for the murder of paper mill worker Tom Monfils.

Called "Beyond Human Nature," the project has been in the works for nearly two years. Madison-based StoryFirst Media released a 2-minute,16-second trailer for the film to FOX 11.

It examines the case of six men - Michael Hirn, Michael Johnson, Michael Piaskowski, Keith Kutska, Rey Moore and Dale Basten - who were convicted of killing Tom Monfils in 1992. His body was found at the bottom of a pulp vat at was then the James River paper mill on Green Bay's east side. After a joint trial, all six were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. A federal judge later overturned Piaskowski's conviction, but the other five are still in prison.

And while the facts of the case will be examined in the film, director Michael Neelsen says the goal is not to prove guilt or innocence. The tone and approach are very different from "Making A Murderer," he said.

"Our goal is to tell the story of how it affected the people in it. We're storytellers first. We're not lawyers. We're not people who have histories in criminal justice or anything like that. I don't think the medium of film is the best for determining guilt or innocence," Neelsen said.

The trailer includes comments from Piaskowski, the only one of the five defendants filmmakers have been able to interview so far, and Randy Winkler, the lead police investigator in the case.

"I didn't have any hand in Tom's death. Whatever happened to Tom happened to tom somewhere else by someone else," Piaskowski said in the trailer, which is followed by a response by the now-retired Winkler: "He gave us his song and dance. And the harder we tried to prove he was innocent, the more it looked like he was guilty."

Neelsen said the format is very different than the extensive use of trial video in "Making of a Murderer" because "Beyond Human Nature" isn't an advocacy piece.

"Our goal has always been the same: looking at the community, seeing the impact and telling the stories of these individuals in a way that hasn't been covered before," Neelsen said.

The film is more than a courtroom drama set in 1995, given the extensive interviews gathered during the last two years.

"It's about human beings being involved in something they never thought they would be a part of and what's the lasting effect on them," he said.

Neelsen says he is still in the early editing stages - and doesn't know what format it will take but it could be a series or a single film. He hopes to have it done sometime next year. A distribution method hasn't been determined, either.

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