On Monday, a Wisconsin judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Father Ryan Erickson was the person who killed two people at a Hudson Funeral home three years ago.
Tuesday, court documents were opened and the public is now learning what catholic church officials knew for years, that Ryan Erickson was a troubled man.
Father Erickson's troubles began long before he was a priest, according to information in the Hudson Police files on the funeral home murders of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison.
The files trace a life of sexual activity that begins when Ryan Erickson is just six years old. In 1979, the files indicate, Erickson has what is described as "some sexual involvement" with a 4 year old cousin.
Eleven years later, in 1990, when Erickson is 17, he has sexual involvement with another boy who was about 14.
Two years later, now 19, Erickson allegedly sexually assaults a 16-year-old male at a Wisconsin summer resort. A criminal investigation begins. In July of that same summer, a psychologist provides a psychological report on Erickson to Father Kevin Gordon of the Superior, Wisconsin Diocese. That fall, Erickson enrolls in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona.
Two years later, Fathers Gordon and Phillip Heslin speak to police about the incident at the summer resort and Vilas County officials decide not to file charges.
In 1996, Erickson graduates from Saint Mary's with a degree in Philosophy. He attends St. Paul Seminary for graduate work. More questions are raised by Seminary officials about Erickson's sexual history, but nothing is done.
In June of 2000, Erickson is ordained a priest and assigned to Saint Patrick's Church in Hudson.
In October of 2002, eight months after the Funeral Home murders, there is another psychological examination of Erickson for the Diocese of Superior, the results are not disclosed.
A year later, in 2003, Erickson is transferred to a parish in Ladysmith, Wisconsin as the assistant pastor but he doesn't last long. Pastor John Anderson, upset with Erickson for taking a cooler of liquor for a weekend at "Beer Can Island" in Hudson, tells Bishop Fliss of Superior "Either he be transferred or I be transferred".
In August of 2004, Erickson was transferred, assigned to the parish in Hurley, Wisconsin. That's where, in December, he committed suicide after being questioned by police in connection with the Funeral Home murders and alleged sexual impropriety with a then 17 year old male. That man testified at the hearing on Monday.
The Diocese of Superior issued a statement on Tuesday stating that two days before his death, Erickson told diocese officials, "I have peace of mind because I know I had nothing to do with those murders in Hudson. God knows I'm telling the truth." The Diocese contends that Bishop Raphael Fliss had no reason to doubt Erickson's statements.
The Rev. John Parr, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Hudson where Erickson began his career and where the murders were committed, said Tuesday he was angry and confused about Erickson's behavior.
"What played out in the life of Reverend Erickson was, I have to say, atrocious behavior in what the church would talk about in the terms of sin," he said.
Erickson was a "very troubled individual who kept secrets secret, and we know how it ended," Parr said.
By Allen Costantini, KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2005 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)