Friday, September 30, 2005


Sources: Priest Killed Hudson Funeral Home Workers

"Ol Cranky" and JG both send us an update to this story:

Hudson, Wis. - Prosecutors said they will present strong evidence in a hearing next week that will officially declare the case of a double murder at a funeral home in Hudson, Wis. closed.

Sources said prosecutors will present evidence showing that a Catholic priest murdered Dan O'Connell and James Ellison in a funeral home more than three years ago.

Since Feb. 5, 2002, the motive behind the shootings of O'Connell, 39, and Ellison, 22, has been an unsolved puzzle, until now.

The pieces start with what happened inside the walls of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hudson.

Sources said that sometime before February 2002, a teenage boy was sent to the church. He had gotten in trouble with the law and was assigned to do community service at the church.

The boy was placed under the care of Father Ryan Erickson, sources said. Erickson, 31, was a youth pastor, but sources said on at least three occasions, Erickson took the boy into the rectory of the church, served him alcohol and molested him.

Hudson Police have launched a separate investigation into those allegations.

The murders are tied to those allegations because O'Connell and his family are very well connected in the church. O'Connell’s father serves on the church council and Erickson presided over O'Connell's funeral.

Sources said O'Connell found out something about these allegations against Erickson. It is unknown what O'Connell found out, or if anyone will ever know what O'Connell found out, but sources said O'Connell told at least one person he was going to confront Erickson about what he was told.

Sources said that shortly after O'Connell confronted Erickson about the allegations, he and his intern were shot dead inside the O'Connell Family Funeral Home.

Prosecutors will present to a judge information that shows Erickson was trying to cover up his trail of molestation by killing O'Connell and that University of Minnesota student Ellison was also killed because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, sources said.

Hudson Police started questioning Erickson about the shootings and investigators have said Erickson did know information about the crime scene nobody else could have known. Shortly after investigators began questioning him, Erickson committed suicide.

Sources said police have solid evidence against Erickson, but police have never found the murder weapon.

Either way, police believe this puzzle is now solved.

The evidence will be presented during John Doe hearings next week. The hearings will take place behind closed doors before Circuit Judge Eric Lundell.

Lundell will rule whether evidence gathered by police provides enough probable cause that Erickson could have been charged with the crime, if he were still alive.

The hearings are expected to last three days and could include up to 15 witnesses. Only the victims' and the priest's families will be allowed to attend the hearing, but transcripts of the testimony and other police documents will be released afterward.

Erickson's parents released a statement Friday calling the evidence in the case "very weak."

"We know in our hearts that our son had nothing to do with this awful crime and feel tremendous sympathy for the families of Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Ellison," the statement said.

Neither the O'Connell family nor the Ellison family wanted to comment on camera for the story. The families did say they look forward to next week’s court hearing, so the truth will finally come out.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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