January 21, 2005

Priest's will raised concerns

HUDSON (WI)
Pioneer Press

BY ALEX FRIEDRICH
Pioneer Press

It seemed an odd last will for a Roman Catholic priest to write. In hindsight, it was a sign of bad things to come.

The document sat on the desk of the Rev. Ryan Erickson on Dec. 16 when Hudson, Wis., police led a search of his office at St. Mary's Church in Hurley, Wis. They had recently questioned the 31-year-old priest in a Hudson homicide investigation and a possible crime involving one or more minors.

The priest had been acting antsy, say those who knew him. And to some, the letter's use of the past tense seemed almost like the wording used in a suicide note:

" 'I tried to make a difference,' " Hurley Police Chief Daniel Erspamer remembered reading.

Erspamer and Deacon Russ Lundgren said they told Erickson of their concern. But the priest explained away those words. To ease the chief's mind, Erickson an avid hunter allowed police to hand over his collection of pistols and rifles to the deacon. And he assured both men he had no intention of killing himself.

"I'll see you at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve," he told Erspamer, who sings in the church choir.

Three days later, Erickson hanged himself with a rope from an outside fire escape next to the rectory.

Posted by kshaw at January 21, 2005 04:12 AM