October 04, 2005

Judge: Priest was funeral home killer

HUDSON (WI)
Pioneer Press

BY KEVIN HARTER
Pioneer Press

HUDSON, Wis. There is overwhelming evidence that the Rev. Ryan Erickson killed two men in a Hudson funeral home in 2002, a St. Croix County judge said Monday after a day of testimony revealed the priest to be a man consumed by guns, alcohol and gay pornography.

"I conclude that Ryan Erickson probably committed the crimes in question," Judge Eric Lundell said. "On a scale of one to 10, I would consider it a 10. It is a very strong case of circumstantial evidence."

Erickson, 31, was an associate pastor at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Hudson when Dan O'Connell, 39, and intern James Ellison, 22, were shot to death Feb. 5, 2002. The priest had the "motive and opportunity" to commit the murders, Lundell said.

St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson said at least nine pieces of circumstantial evidence including a confession to a church deacon connected Erickson to the slayings. He laid out that evidence in a so-called John Doe proceeding, held to close the lengthy homicide investigation with a judge's opinion about who committed the crimes.

Posted by kshaw at October 4, 2005 08:02 AM