Day Street is a residential street that is synonymous with murder to many of the people who live in Green Bay. It is a street that is steeped in horror, legend, and fear, but also one that resembles any other street in downtown Green Bay. Located on the city’s near east side, it measures approximately 1 mile in length and includes many lower to mid-level income families in a mix of rental units and owner-occupied housing. You can see children playing in front yards, teenagers riding their bicycles on the sidewalks, and families out for a stroll on an average warm, summer day. However, you would’ve also seen multiple condemned properties in the past and the occasional police car stopped near the curb. Day Street is an aging street that has seen a wave of demographic changes over the years, but continues to remain a source of anxiety for residents because of the events that unfolded there and the stories surrounding them. It’s not that the concentration of crimes pertaining to that specific street are more numerous than any other part of the city, but rather the ones committed there have been extremely heinous, leading to this view.
The most heinous of all the murders that occurred on Day Street was the murder of a five-year-old Hmong girl named Nancy Thao, who attended a nearby elementary school. No one could have imagined that Johnson Greybuffalo, a young Native man with a child of his own, would be so cruel as to kill a small child that simply woke up to interrupt him stealing into their apartment in the middle of the night. If she were alive, she would be a few years younger than me today, but she never got the chance to live out her life. The most well-known murder that became national news was that of Tom Monfils, which took place at the James River Paper Mill at the start of Day Street. 5 of the 6 men who the courts convicted of the crime have been released or are just now being released after serving their time, but there are still numerous people who believe that all the men were innocent and continue to espouse the theory that the victim actually took his own life. From 1988 to today, the string of murders and crimes that have plagued this particular street continue to haunt its inhabitants.
The following murders occurred on Day Street: Clinton Cardish was beaten to death by his former cellmate on May 13, 1995, Lorenzo Ayalla was shot and killed by an acquaintance on January 28, 1995, who later left the country and was never caught, Nancy Thao was stabbed to death by Johnson Greybuffalo in the attempt of a burglary on July 22, 1994, Tom Monfils was beaten, bound, and thrown into a paper pulp vat by disgruntled co-workers on November 21, 1992, Eugene McIntosh was stabbed to death by his wife on April 30, 1988, Ouida Wright was killed by her boyfriend on May 3, 2013, and Ricardo Gomez was shot by Richard Arrington on April 2, 2016. It is hard to believe that such misery and crime could happen in the stretch of only one mile, but these murders now define the street and how people view it.
According to the United States Census, the population for Green Bay was 104,879 persons in July of 2018. In 2010, that number stood at 103,911 and 102,313 in 2000 respectively. Green Bay has not grown as exponentially as Madison throughout the years, but the suburbs surrounding the city such as De Pere and Howard have thrived. This was very apparent when we first moved to Day Street in the late 1990’s, when droves of families who previously lived there escaped to the suburbs and subsequently were replaced with a more multi-cultural landscape. Along with a more multicultural population, Green Bay also saw an influx of workers who always lived on farms or traveled long distances to reach work in the city due to a scarcity of work in their towns and villages. Although the population size has not increased much, the demographics of the inner city have changed over the years with different groups of people moving in. This has led to tensions in a small town that always identified itself as a small-town, all-American city.
I’ve lived on Day Street three times in three different houses in my life. The first time was when my parents bought a house, which was not an easy feat for an immigrant family that struggled to speak the language and understand the societal norms. I recall my mother saying that she heard terrible rumors about the street and wasn’t eager to move there, but with the low price of the house and how close it was situated to everything else, my parents changed their minds and closed the deal. We moved in after the murder of Nancy Thao and I would get chills every time we passed the former residence. At that time when we first moved, I distinctly recall many for sale signs planted in lawns all around our neighborhood. It was very apparent that families who had lived there for years had decided it was time to move due in part to the crime in the 90’s. The neighborhood was definitely changing and our family and others like ours were part of that change.
Green Bay has added multi-cultural events celebrating all this diversity to the city through picnics, town talks, and more. However, this doesn’t change the fact that more minorities and low-income families are affected by crime because of the lack of affordable housing and job advancement. The median income of a household in 2017 was $45,473 as opposed to the 2017 national median income of $61,372. While the official national poverty stats of 2017 was at 12.3%, Green Bay had 17% of its residents living in poverty. A majority of those living in poverty either live downtown or in certain areas that provide more affordable housing. These groups of people then experience more hardships because of where they live, making it tougher to rise out of poverty and where they are. Race also plays into how victims and perpetrators are treated in a town that is overwhelmingly white. In the trial of Johnson Greybuffalo, a juror expressed fears that she might not be partial enough because she thought poorly of both Hmong people and Native Americans. This casual racism is usually unspoken, but is always there as people fear a foreign race who they assume are taking over their lands and rights, leading to apathy for a little girl that was murdered and for those that continued to inhabit the space of those who discarded it.
My life has been intertwined with this particular street and with that, some of the crimes that have happened on it. My parents moved from Illinois to the city when I was barely one and I have spent the majority of my life here. While living on Day Street, I have actually heard a gunshot that killed someone, knew one of the murderers as a young teenager, and attended the funeral of one of the victims. Since Green Bay is a relatively smaller city, some residents have a connection to one or more the crimes that have occurred on the street, and some even have knowledge of the actual crimes that took place. Currently, I work at a correctional center that some of these same murderers have either lived in or moved through. Having worked in a maximum-security prison, I have seen all sorts of offenders from those who trafficked drugs to those who committed homicide. There are various misconceptions about what happens to inmates once they are incarcerated and what goes on behind the locked gates, but the truth is that although the whole prison system nation-wide could be reformed, it is not what some make it out to be.
Despite these things, I’m proud to call this city my home and am excited for the changes that have occurred so far. Although wages in the city are not as high as Madison or Milwaukee, the cost-of-living is very accommodating to growing families. Rents are relatively lower than the more populous cities and crime occurs at a much considerably lower rate here than Madison or Milwaukee. When I attended UW-Madison, I remember a body being dragged from the water the first few weeks I was there and it didn’t even make front page news. Many residents of Green Bay will claim that the city is becoming more and more crime-ridden, but the data shows that crime overall has been down over the decades. In 1993, the national murder rate was 9.5 murders for every 100,000 while it was 5.3 for every 100,000 in 2017. The reason it may appear as if crime is occurring more is that specifically for Green Bay, it doesn’t happen regularly, so when it happens, it becomes front page news, whereas it is barely a mention for larger cities. The more we hear about crimes, the more we think it is happening. However, it could easily be attributed to the fact that we are getting the information at a faster rate than we ever have before and that is why it feels as if there is more crime when there isn’t.
With social media, the spread of harrowing news such as kidnapping and lost children are rapidly fed into our Facebooks and Twitter accounts and continuously shared, with almost no lag time in between the incident and the post. If a child goes missing in a small city, even those in cities two states over will know and share the posts by the end of the day. Technology has allowed for information to proliferate like never before, allowing it reach people that may have never known previously. However, it also added an inflated sense of fear as people think that crime is getting worse, when in actuality, they are just hearing about it more. We thrive on fear because it is an innate, primal instinct that has kept us alive through the centuries. Fear is ingrained into our DNA whether we like it or not, and although we like to believe we are move evolved than that, we simply are not. We seek out fear. We court fear and we can influence people through fear. The more we deny this small truth, the more those who understand the power of fear can use it to control us. What is at the root of fear is the desire to stay alive. Those who spread fear are seen as heralders of safety even if they are wrong.
We don’t fault someone for spreading misinformation because we feel as if they did it in the hopes of keeping us safe. We also continue to spread misinformation even if it’s been proven wrong because we feel it’s our duty to keep others safe. To understand fear, we must understand how the instinct has worked for so long. We as a race have used fear to survive and thrive, and because of it, we seek out fear to keep us alive. We want to be scared to within an inch of our lives on roller coasters, haunted houses, and paint ball games. We want to know fear, but a controlled fear because it is exhilarating. I saw a post on Facebook on a community policing page where someone reported a group of men for trying to kidnap children into sex slavery. Some commenters stated that the police already investigated the situation and found that it was merely a bible group who was aggressively trying to recruit, but this did not stop people from sharing after the fact. We live for fear because it keeps us alive and we excuse those that rile up the fear in us because we thrive on it. Real crime does happen every day, but the perception of crime is what we hold on, for we have been conditioned to do so.
There is a difference between reporting accurately on crimes that occurred and willingly spreading false information that others debunked. With the first, one is simply relaying information about a crime that has occurred, but the latter helps spread an unfounded story that further causes more misinformation and fear in the community. With this book, I hope to accurately inform the readers of the crimes that took place on Day Street, but it is in no way a recrimination of the street or the people that live there. Oftentimes, we will indict a whole race based off of the crime of one individual or in this case, a whole street. Day Street is a street that I grew up on and holds many misconceptions about it due to these crimes, but it is still one that families have decided to live on. It is not always in the best of conditions and does not always house the best of tenants, but it still deserves the truth. For those who have chosen to escape it and those who have chosen to stay, the truth still remains.