October 06, 2005

Strong evidence against priest ends murder case

Rice Lake Chronotype

St. Croix County Circuit Judge Eric Lundell ruled Monday, Oct. 3 that a Catholic priest, Rev. Ryan Erickson, likely murdered Hudson funeral home director Dan O’Connell and employee James Ellison, a Barron native.

The ruling came at the conclusion of a daylong John Doe hearing held after police investigating the 2002 killings became convinced that Erickson was their prime suspect. Erickson hung himself from a fire escape at St. Mary’s Church in Hurley shortly after being questioned by police.

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

St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson said evidence suggests the funeral home’s director had found out that the priest was sexually abusing someone, was providing alcohol to minors, or both.

At the hearing, a deacon testified that Erickson confided that he shot O’Connell, 39, and Ellison, 22.

Posted by kshaw at October 6, 2005 10:30 AM