January 30, 2005

Mystery surrounds life of priest who killed himself

Duluth News Tribune


When he was assigned to a cluster of churches around Hurley, Wis., last August, everything seemed to come together for the Rev. Ryan Erickson.

Four years after fulfilling his boyhood dream of becoming a priest, the 31-year-old had his own parish.

Clad in a traditional cassock, he conducted Masses in a style comforting to his older parishioners but with an energy and flair that drew the younger crowd as well. Attendance at worship increased by 50 percent.

He seemed happy, friends said, trading practical jokes with the church staff and getting a dog -- a golden retriever mix he named Beast.

But in early November, his life started to unravel when investigators from Hudson, Wis., arrived to question him about a double homicide at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson in 2002 -- during the time he served a church there.

He denied any involvement, but the questioning rattled him, friends said. Five weeks after investigators first met with him, he hanged himself from a fire escape outside the Hurley rectory.

All of a sudden, the public learned he was a "person of interest" in the Hudson slayings and, a few weeks later, that he also had been questioned by Hudson police about a possible crime involving one or more minors. No details were given on the case involving minors.

Posted by kshaw at January 30, 2005 05:24 AM