Tag Archives: Walk for Truth and Justice

A Slow but Steady Pace…

A Walk for Truth; A Walk for Justice – Held on Friday, October 30, 2015 on the Brown County Courthouse steps in Green Bay, Wisconsin. For the past 5 years this event has transpired on or close to October 28-the day in 1995 in which 6 men were convicted of 1st degree intentional homicide for the murder of co-worker Tom Monfils at the then James River Paper Mill (now Georgia Pacific) in Downtown Green Bay.

The book published in 2009 that caught my attention called, The Monfils Conspiracy; The Conviction of Six Innocent Men, is described on their website as such: “Gullickson and Gaie trace the futile twenty-nine month investigation between the time of Monfils’ death and the convictions, pock-marked with dead end leads and overlooked evidence. Using solid facts, they lay bare the weaknesses, inconsistencies and secrets in the prosecution’s case and the jury’s erroneous rush to judgement. As recently as 2001, a federal judge ordered the release of one of the men, citing a lack of evidence, and further suggesting the original proof as unsound.” Six Innocent Men 


Denis Gullickson speaking to the crowd before our march

I had traveled over to Green Bay on Thursday, October 29th. On Friday morning, my sister Clare and I were on our way to purchase candles for the event when we received a call from John Gaie. John said that Reporter Raquel Lamal from NBC 26 in Green Bay had called Denis for an interview regarding that evening’s rally. Denis had told her that he wasn’t available. John asked if I’d be willing to do the interview instead. I was excited to oblige, so I gave Raquel a call. She came to my sister’s house and expressed her intention to show the human side of this tragedy. This was great news. Raquel’s piece aired on the 5 pm newscast following the event. Raquel also broadcasted live during the event. Heartfelt thanks go out to Raquel for her efforts!

Clare Martinson, Raquel Lamal and Joan Treppa

Clare Martinson, NBC 26 Reporter Raquel Lamal and Joan at the rally

The event was filled with the usual energy and excitement. Denis Gullickson; co-author of the Monfils Conspiracy book, and emcee, started things off by sharing his usual upbeat thoughts. He walked us through the countless series of activities many of us had engaged in over the years while running back and forth between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Much of what Denis said felt like ancient history because of the inroads we’ve made since then. Way back when, we’d forged ahead during many uncertain times. It was a relief to now savor what appears to be a bright and hopeful future as each year brings additional interest and positive new developments for us to convey to the community.

Photo w book authors 2009

Photo taken in 2009 at a book signing at The Reader’s Loft in Green Bay. (L toR) John Gaie, Clare Martinson, Michael Piaskowski, Joan Treppa and Denis Gullickson

Denis included a major development from the past year; a 152-page motion had been filed on October 31st in 2014 by lead Attorney Steve Kaplan. It was a request for an evidentiary hearing on behalf of Keith Kutska-the main suspect in the case. The hearing itself would allow the legal team to present new findings to justify a request for a brand new trial for Kutska. That motion was granted and a 3-day evidentiary hearing took place on July 7, 8 and 22 of 2015. An astonishing 14 witnesses testified to evidence that should have been brought forth at the original trial. As of November 13, 2015, there has been no word on a ruling from that hearing.

6th annual walk 2015 - Joan with Mario amd Mike Pie

Joan in center with exonerees Michael Piaskowski (L) and Mario Victoria Vasquez (R)

I delivered a much shorter speech that consisted of my gratitude for the hard work that Denis, John, and exoneree Mike Piaskowski had put into the book. I highlighted the continuance of the bravery of the families and friends of the men. I let them know that they are a treasured part of my life and the focus of the inspiration instilled within me. My final thoughts were of two of my heroes standing alongside me onstage-two wrongfully convicted men who had been exonerated from that same county; Michael Piaskowski (from the Monfils case) in 2001, and Mario Victoria Vasquez, released earlier this year and who now supports our efforts to free the five remaining men. I stressed to those present that these two men represent real hope and are living proof that the other five have a significant chance of returning home. The crowd voiced their delight and we relished in this special moment.

Photo at end of March on Courthouse steps

Family, friends and supporters touting signs carrying messages of innocence during the rally

The families and close friends of the five men had saved old signs from past rallies and worked hard to create additional ones for us to carry during our march around the block. Signs professing the innocence of all six men were highly visible from every angle. We carried candles to illuminate this anniversary with seven of us holding special candle holders with photos to commemorate all of the men unjustly represented in this case.

6th annual walk 2015 - candles

(L to R) Decedent Tom Monfils, wrongly convicted Dale Basten, Michael Johnson, Michael Hirn, Reynold Moore and Keith Kutska and exoneree Michael Piaskowski

A few folks who were not related but had heard about the case in the news came to show their support. One of our youngest participants, Reece (orange sweatshirt), came with his Dad. Reece had read the Monfils book and insisted on showing his support by attending. Another young lady, Makayla, had contacted me a few months back expressing her interest as well. She had also read the book, attended the hearing in July and is currently doing a report on the case for school. She was not able to attend that evening but said that she would be with us in spirit. I believe that these young adults represent a new generation of open-minded supporters who view this overall issue in a very realistic way. And they will take its message seriously rather than exhibit apathy.

Walk for Truth and Justice March

Supporters march around the city block. 

These events; the motion, the hearing and our rallies represent major milestones after 23 years of setbacks and denials from prior failed attempts to appeal the verdicts. There is renewed hope and encouragement for those whose lives have been destroyed, that can never be shattered. For those who have lived this nightmare, it has been nothing short of a miracle, knowing that others now believe in them and care enough to act on their behalf. Their appreciation overflows whenever we get together and their warm hugs are filled with sincere gratitude. Most importantly, the strong bond between us will never be broken. And no matter what the future holds, it will not break our slow but steady pace to true justice for all involved!

Walking Without ‘Treppa-dation’

This week I’m posting an article which is a joint effort between myself and author, Denis Gullickson. (He came up with the clever title.) It was published on December 1, 2014 in a Wisconsin circular called Scene Magazine. This article is a personal testament of why it was inevitable for me to get involved in wrongful convictions. In pursuing this issue, I hadn’t given much thought to the difficulties of dredging up old memories-things I hadn’t thought about in years. Working through those emotions became a way to use my tragedies in a constructive way to overcome fear and pain. My greatest wish is to empower anyone who reads my story to look inside themselves and say, if she can do it, then I can to...

By: Denis Gullickson

What can one person accomplish?

A whole lot, if you follow the story of Joan Treppa — a story of determined footsteps that have led to miles of success.
Let’s start with the recent “Walk for Truth and Justice” at the Brown County Courthouse on Saturday, October 25. That walk — the fifth annual — was first held in 2010 to commemorate the October 28, 1995-evening when participants say wrongful convictions were delivered in the Monfils murder trial.


The Locatelli family filled a picture as well as a room. Joan Locatelli, front and center, had a lot of trials and tribulations awaiting her, before she would come to the realization as an adult that ‘my mission in life must be to provide a voice of hope for those who are forgotten as well as a voice of inspiration for all others to remember.’                                  Photo courtesy of Joan Treppa.

While that event represented a mere half-mile of the walking Treppa has done during her involvement in the Monfils case, there have been countless more miles crisscrossing Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Add in the miles driven between Blaine, MN, where Treppa lives, and Titletown — and you’ve got the expedition of a sojourner on a mighty mission.

The even-more recent filing of a 152-page motion for new trials on behalf of the five men who remain incarcerated for the murder of Tom Monfils, suggests that those miles are beginning to pay off.

That motion was filed in Brown County Court by Attorney Steve Kaplan of the Minnesota law firm of Fredrikson and Byron in conjunction with the Minnesota and Wisconsin Innocence Projects and several private attorneys across the Badger State.

Growing Up in the UP
Let’s shoot back to the beginning, where this journey began. Things weren’t so easy for Joan. Born in Laurium, MI — home of the legendary “Gipper” — on September 28, 1958, she was the thirteenth of sixteen “Locatelli kids.”

Laurium is a small town located in the heart of Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Today, its population is just under 2,000 after climaxing at 8,500+ in 1910 in the midst of a shipping, logging and copper mining boom.

Indeed, Laurium was once the home of many wealthy members of Keweenaw society. The vast majority of structures standing today were constructed during its heyday between 1880 and 1915 and its population has been tumbling ever since. In 1960, it was just over 3,000.

While Joan’s father was — by all outward appearances — a successful local businessman, things weren’t all that tidy or successful at home. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom, said Joan, who ran things “like a demilitarized boot camp or something similarly chaotic.

“I remember feeling alone and lost and I don’t remember experiencing much in the way of individuality, ever. An adequate amount of nurturing was uncommon and was replaced by insecurity and fear.

“We comprised a body of sixteen siblings from a single set of parents. Mom addressed us as ‘you kids,’ always lumping us together as one entity so no matter who was caught doing what, it always became a collective matter and we were all punished.”
As radio personality and “technical engineer,” her father helped start one of the first radio stations in “Copper Country” — WMPL (Miller, Paulson and Locatelli). “The radio station is still in existence in Hancock, MI,” said Joan. “My dad was the sole owner by the time it was sold in 1969 to the present owner.”

While resources were often tight, music was one means for members of the Locatelli brood to distinguish themselves. “My parents both played musical instruments. Mom played the piano and dad played the clarinet and violin. Most of us kids either played an instrument in band or sang in the high school choir. I was in the choir.”

Winters were harsh in Laurium and the walks home after school or choir practice were especially bone-chilling. At Catholic grade school, Joan was bullied incessantly for her tattered clothes — the girls there chanting “cat got your tongue?” when she shut down; at home, she disappeared beneath the bedlam of a jam-packed household. Her father was usually gone; her mother was typically frustrated and overwhelmed.

In 1969, when Joan was just eleven, her father abandoned his family — not that things were good before that. “The years leading up to that time became a public display of marital disagreements between my parents.”

The divorce became final in 1972.
“There were eight of us kids still at home and things really went downhill when dad finally left. We didn’t know whether to feel relief that the fighting had stopped or sadness because of my dad’s absence. Mom went between fits of rage over the separation and deep depression and the house became a hoarder’s paradise. We pretty much raised ourselves from then on.
“My older brothers and sisters whom we all relied upon for both emotional support as well as everyday physical needs had all graduated from high school and gone on to find their own way in the world. It was hard for them to come back into the dismal atmosphere after they had, as we all now say, ‘escaped.”

Joan’s own “escape” wasn’t far off. She started her freshman year at Calumet High School in 1972, but dropped out after becoming pregnant at age 15 in January, 1974. Her son, Jared Manninen, was born on September 10, 1974. “I blame my early pregnancy (with a man seven years older than me) on looking for “love” from that father figure,” she said.

“I kept silent, rendering myself helpless in my defense and all the while, no one came to my aid until the damage was done.

I struggled with feeling different, left out, left behind and forgotten and as a result, much of my young adult life consisted of a myriad of misguided mishaps.

“Life overall seemed to be one struggle after another even though there were little intervals of victories along the way. The insecurities I experienced vastly outweighed any accomplishments so the euphoria did not have a lasting effect on my overall mental health.”

Eventually, she attended night classes at Houghton High, earning her diploma in the spring of 1979. Having endured much by age twenty-one, Joan was taking steps forward. “My son Jared was 5 years old at the time,” she said. “I was starting to come out of my shell and feeling good about this accomplishment.”

A Better Direction
With a new-found bounce in her stride, Joan looked toward college. “I attended Suomi College (now Finlandia College), a two-year community college in Hancock, MI from 1980-1 and received an associate’s degree in Human Services.

“I took a journalism course and wrote poems for the school newsletter. I graduated with honors and was recognized for my life experiences as a non-traditional student. I also volunteered at a 24-hour, phone-line crisis center called Dial Help, all the while being a single mom. But I was surviving and making more friends that I could relate to.”

Dial Help turned out to be a two-way street as Joan stepped further and further away from the lonesome corners of her past.

“There was only one volunteer to man the phones for each eight hour shift. Calls came in occasionally and covered everything from suicide, sexual assault and drug abuse to individuals who were just lonely.”

Helping others helped Joan. At Dial Help, she also met Mike Treppa.

“Mike and I both worked at Dial Help as volunteers. Mike volunteered for about a year and I was there for three years. For me, this opportunity was in direct line with the type of classes I was taking in college, so I felt it was a crucial experience. For Mike, it was a way to help people but without having to commit too much time or energy so he could focus mainly on school.”

The connection was more than just a common cause found on a phone line.

“Mike and I each had a sense for reading people’s emotions and it was intuitive for us to be able to reach them and help them deal with more underlying issues. Our personalities were and are very similar in our desire to help people. I began to appreciate the talents I had.”


Denis listens as Joan Treppa speaks from the heart at the 5th Annual Walk for Truth and Justice at the Brown County Courthouse on Saturday, October 25, 2014. Photo courtesy of Joan Treppa. 

Mike and Joan met at a volunteer meeting in the summer of 1983. They started dating when they reconnected at a Christmas Party at the home of a Dial Help volunteer.

“It was our first chance to really get to know each other. I was a local who knew the area so I was a designated driver for that evening for the college students working at Dial Help. Mike made sure that he was one of my passengers on the drive home after the party. While dropping him off, my car broke down in front of his apartment!

“He felt sorry for me so after helping me get my car situation under control, he took me out to meet some his friends who were in the midst of an evening get together. We started dating regularly after that. It was a big deal that someone like Mike thought of me as a worthy companion.”

Soon, Joan’s path took a dramatic turn. The two dated “on and off” for about eighteen months; Mike was wrapping up his senior year at Michigan Tech with a schedule that was hectic and overwhelming with little time for romance. “However, we knew we were meant for each other and had already discussed the idea of marriage,” Joan said, “But there were details to be worked out and Mike had to find a job.”

The next steps were especially delicate.

“Jared was excited about moving and about Mike being his new dad. Mike found a job in Minnesota when he graduated in November of 1984 so he moved there first to find a place for us to live.

“At that time I was on public assistance and working part time as a housekeeper at a hotel. I quit my job and Jared and I were on our way to Minnesota in January. Jared and I both believed that when Mike left for Minnesota, he would be back to claim us. Mike and I got married seven months later, on August 17, 1985.”

Joan’s social worker at the time predicted failure when Joan told her she was pulling up stakes and taking steps in a brand new direction. “Why bother?” Joan remembered the worker asking, “You know it isn’t going to work out anyway!”

A Detroit native, Mike’s mother insisted on paying for a ceremony at the same downtown church where she and her mother had been married. “It was the wedding of my dreams since my first marriage was through a Justice of the Peace,” said Joan. It “laid the ground for a total shift in my whole disposition and having the support of a loving husband caused so many things inside of me to blossom.”

Getting Involved… 
To visit the Treppa’s in suburban Blaine, MN is to visit a modern couple. Urbane, successful, intelligent, aware — Mike and Joan complement one another and their marriage is reflective of individual passions forming synergy.

There is more than three-hundred and fifty miles separating Joan’s life today and her Laurium-childhood. It’s a distance she’s walked and, sometimes, ran. A distance marked by doubt and darkness. A distance broken by unanticipated pregnancies and broken-down automobiles.

Mike, an engineering supervisor, tends to his vegetable garden — keeping the rabbits and deer at bay while Joan puts the finishing touches on her blog for the day. They have embraced the verve of the Twin Cities.

Joan is a “packing assistant” for “Gentle Transitions” helping elderly folks pack up their belongings and transition to a new residence. “When we are finished,” Joan said, “the client has a new dwelling that is all stocked, organized and ready to move in.”

In 2009, this writer and co-author, John Gaie, published “The Monfils Conspiracy: The Conviction of Six Innocent Men” after eight years reinvestigating the death of Tom Monfils and the resulting arrests, trial and convictions.

This writer recalls one of the early public meetings regarding the Monfils case and meeting Joan and Mike, afterward. While that introduction was cordial enough and Joan expressed her dismay at the injustice represented in this case, no one could have expected what came next. Or next. Or next.

Joan’s interest in the case prompted questions and phone conversations and emails and more questions and boxes of copies of the book — which she then sold or put in the hands of everyone willing to give her a minute. She stopped at schools and talked to principals, churches where she bent the ear of ministers, law firms where she buttonholed anyone who’d glanced her way.

One take on the Monfils case kept her moving: “Since I was bullied as a child, I viewed this case as a big bullying campaign and was compelled to defend those whom I saw as victims of the same … I have very little patience for those who mimic the bullies in grade school. When I see treatment of others similar to how I was treated back then, there are no restraints that will hold me back from coming to their aid.”

A copy of “The Monfils Conspiracy” was never out of reach. A year into selling and distributing books, Joan made a chance acquaintance — at her own mailbox. That meeting would lead to the involvement of a crack private investigator in the case.

“It was summer and I was grabbing my mail when the neighbor pulled up next to the mailboxes to get his. Johnny Johnson was in the passenger seat. I started talking about the book and the case and Johnny was intrigued. It turned out that he is a retired Veteran with a 30-year career in law enforcement and private investigative work. This idea of wrongful convictions was new to him but he bought a book from me and read it three times.

“He wanted to get involved when he learned that the exoneree [Mike Piaskowski] was also a Vet. He wanted more info, so I introduced him to the authors and the exoneree. He was convinced that this was a travesty and an affront to what he stood for in his 30 years. So we decided that he would investigate this case even further and I would be his assistant.”

Together, the duo compiled “a mountain” of documentation about the case and went searching for legal help. That brought them to an annual benefit for the Minnesota Innocence Project. There, Johnson met Kaplan, who was very sympathetic to the victims of wrongful convictions and who had just completed a case involving Damon Thibodeaux, the 300th DNA exoneree. At the same time, Joan made a connection with Audrey Edmunds, another Wisconsin exoneree.

At a book signing Joan hosted at her home for Edmunds, Joan asked Kaplan about who could help with the Monfils case. At Kaplan’s suggestion, Joan and Johnny found their way to the offices of Fredrikson and Byron, where Kaplan was in the process of retiring. The person they were scheduled to meet with was ill. However, Joan wasn’t leaving “until we talked to someone, so we asked for Steve.”

During a three-hour meeting, Kaplan expressed profound interest in the case and promised to look at that mountain of paperwork Johnson had brought with him. Kaplan, had also promised his wife a vacation to mark his retirement, Joan recalled. “Upon returning, Steve went back to the firm and has since worked on this case full time for twenty months.”

A Motion Filed 
On Friday, October 31st, Kaplan filed his motion for new trials in the Monfils case. Joan Treppa’s journey had hit a major milestone.

It was, she said, reflective of her “innate sense of independence and ability to lead, things that were surreptitiously rooted in my character all along … there really was nothing that set me apart from the other kids all along except that I allowed debilitating emotions to control my life.

“Even though I am humble, I accept the idea that I have the capacity to inspire and the ability to be a strong leader. I am able to maintain an irrefutable amount of strength and perseverance in the face of adversity and I am intent on using those talents to help mend the lives of others less fortunate.”

Surely Joan didn’t do this alone; there have been innumerable hours turned in by dozens of others. A phone call by Madison attorney Ed Garvey to the Wisconsin Innocence Project … thirteen years of effort by exoneree Mike Piaskwoski … hundreds of hours of work by this writer and co-author John Gaie … marches, meetings and fundraisers by the “Family and Friends of Six Innocent Men” group … and untold steps by various attorneys and innocence groups.

Still, Joan Treppa’s impact cannot be underestimated. A journey of thousand miles, as they say, begins with a single footstep. Early footfalls may have been those of a lonely girl bracing herself against the cold winds off of Lake Superior, the bullying of other kids in a small town and the emotional ravages of a dysfunctional family. Today, however, Joan’s pace is strong, purposeful and amazingly effective.

You can see more of Joan Treppa at:

KMSP Fox 9 news(1)

KMSP Fox 9 news(2)

or by visiting her blog

Kaplan is under no delusions about the uphill battle facing this most-recent effort on behalf of the six former paper mill workers who remain incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons. The legal team he spearheads is pressing for new trials, which supporters believe will lead to findings of not guilty.

Until then, Joan Treppa will keep on walking — picking up fellow marchers along the way who are just as dedicated to the steps of truth and justice.

Denis Gullickson is an educator, speaker, farmer and horseman. He writes and lectures on these topics, as well as philosophy, history, football and Packers history. He talks about the Packers in Wisconsin Public Television’s “Hometown Stories — Green Bay.” His books include “Before They Were the Packers: Green Bay’s Town Team Days,” “Vagabond Halfback: The Life and Times of Johnny Blood McNally,” and “The Monfils Conspiracy: The Conviction of Six Innocent Men.” He is currently working on a stage play on Johnny Blood as well as several book projects.


The Press-ure to Release Five Innocent Men…

This press release was sent out to all of the local Green Bay, WI media outlets on Sat, Oct. 18th:


Fifth Annual Walk for Truth and Justice Set for Saturday, October 25

Green Bay, WI — October 18, 2014

The evening of Saturday, October 28, 1995 was a rainy one in Northeastern Wisconsin.

That night an imported jury from Racine County returned to a Brown County courtroom after deliberating for less than seven hours and delivered six guilty verdicts in what is likely the most famous murder trial in Green Bay history.

The “Monfils Six” — Dale Basten, Michael Hirn, Michael Johnson, Keith Kutska, Michael Piaskowski and Rey Moore — were found guilty, in a joint trial, of first degree intentional homicide-party to a crime; an alleged conspiracy to murder their co-worker, Tom Monfils.

Piaskowski was released in 2001 by order of Federal Judge, Myron Gordon, who stated that Piaskowski should not have been convicted on what Gordon called “inference-stacking” at the heart of the state’s case. The other five men remain incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons, continuing to this day to proclaim their complete innocence.

Piaskowski has worked doggedly on behalf of the other five men since his release. Along with a local group,  the “Families and Friends of Six Innocent Men,” and others, Piaskowski will help lead the Fifth Annual Walk for Truth and Justice at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, October 25 at the Brown County Courthouse.

The group will gather for speeches by author Denis Gullickson and Justice Advocates Joan Treppa and Trudy Baltazar. It will then hold a candlelight walk around the courthouse, past the Green Bay police department and back to the courthouse.

The group remains optimistic thanks to the involvement of Fredrikson and Byron, a major Minneapolis law firm, a team of additional Wisconsin attorneys and the Minnesota and Wisconsin Innocence Projects.

In anticipation of the walk, Gullickson said, “The legal team has been working with witnesses and experts to prepare a motion showing why the men were wrongfully convicted.  We expect that a motion will be filed with the court in the very near future and the reasons why the convictions were wrongful will then become clear.”

For the benefit of those affected by this injustice, please take a moment to remember the five incarcerated men and their families, that they all may be reunited in a timely manner. Nineteen years is so very long and these folks need every ounce of support that we can send their way! Thank you!

We are closer than ever before to success but lest we forget our humanity, please also be mindful that for those who have placed this unbearable burden upon these innocents, the pressure to vacate these convictions will likewise be unbearable, and the wake of the impending legal firestorm will be fraught with new cruelties. Having compassion for both sides does not dismiss the devastating injuries, but empowers us to rise above these accusers, to celebrate our integrity and to authenticate our truths.