I guess we High Road members are all murder suspects now


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motoman
October 3, 2005, 09:00 PM
Star Stribune (Red Star) (http://www.startribune.com/stories/467/5647951.html)

HUDSON, Wis. -- A St. Croix County judge ruled today that the Rev. Ryan Erickson, who killed himself last December, probably murdered two men at a funeral home in Hudson on Feb. 5, 2002.

Judge Eric Lundell said that on a scale of 1 to 10 probability, "I would consider it a 10."

He said prosecutors had presented a very strong case of circumstantial evidence. Lundell said the testimony of a church deacon was key to his ruling. But he said that prosecutors had proven both motive and opportunity.

Lundell said probable cause is the lowest level of proof, unlike a trial, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He pointed out that no other persons had been shown to be suspects. He said that on at least 10 occasions Erickson touched a young man inappropriately

Erickson owned 16 firearms and was proficient in weapons, including the 9-mm pistol, which was the caliber of gun used in the killings. Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun, Lundell said. Police have not found the murder weapon, however.

Fifteen witnesses testified for the state in a day-long "John Doe" hearing to establish whether there is probable cause to believe that Erickson killed Dan O'Connell, 39, and his intern James Ellison, 22 at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home. Erickson, 31, was found hanged Dec. 19 from a fire escape at his parish in Hurley in far northern Wisconsin days after being questioned by police.

"When you look at the various pieces of evidence in isolation, it may not mean much," said prosecutor Eric Johnson. "But when you put it all together you have, I think, a pretty strong circumstantial case."

Johnson said evidence suggests O'Connell found out something about the priest, either he was sexually abusing someone or he was providing alcohol to minors, that provided a motive for the killings.

Johnson said, "We're pleased by judge's decision. He went beyond the probable cause standard." That was very significant, he said.

After the ruling, Hudson police chief Richard Trende said the case is closed, but if new evidence surfaces his department will investigate.

"James and Dan were innocent victims," he said. "My prayers also extend Erickson's family. They lost a son. It's my hope that we found a resolution to this. It's a difficult case."

Carston Ellison, James' father, said, "The public deserved these answers." They would end speculation about the case, he said.

Asked about what the case says about the Catholic Church, Sally Ellison, James' mother, said, "It's important to understand, a priest is a human being as well. A priest is as fallible as any human being."

Jennie O'Connell, Dan's wife, was asked if case had shattered her faith. "Yes," she said. "And that's all I'm going say about that."

Erickson's parents did not attend the hearing.

Some of today's most powerful testimony came from the deacon and two police officers.

The deacon, Russ Lundgren, testified that Erickson said, "I've done it, and they are going to get me," after being questioned by police about the killings.

Lundgren worked with Erickson at the Church of the Seven Dolors in Hurley, Wis., where the priest was transferred after the slayings occurred and testified this morning about a conversation he had with the priest after Erickson was questioned by Hudson police.

Lundgren said he and the priest were alone in the church office at the time and Erickson was angry.

"He was staring out the window. Throughout the whole conversation, we never made eye contact,'' Lundgren said.

The priest also told the deacon, "Do you know what they do with young guys in prison, especially priests?'' Lundgren testified.

Lundgren said Erickson then got up and left the room, and they never talked about it again.

A police investigator, Shawn Pettee, testified that Erickson appeared to know details about the crime that had not been publicly divulged. Those details included that the two victims were each shot once in the head, that O'Connell's body was found behind the desk and that Ellison was shot as he entered O'Connell's office through a door.

"That was an immediate red flag," Pettee said. He also testified that some 40 pornographic images were found on Erickson's computer.

Lt. Paul Larson of the Hudson Police Department said police believe O'Connell was shot once in the head, and then the gunman left. Ellison then came to the office to see what had happened. The gunman returned and shot Ellison in the head from close range.

Larson said that after interviews with about 800 people, he believes Erickson was the killer.

Other witnesses included a man in his early 20s, who testified that Erickson gave him alcohol and sexually touched him on several occasions at the rectory of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Hudson, where Erickson was a priest at the time of the murders.

Mary Pagel, a school bus driver, said she had met with O'Connell for coffee on the morning of the murders and he asked her if she had ever seen Erickson touch a child inappropriately.

She said, "I was surprised when he said that and it kind of made me upset.''

O'Connell indicated he had a meeting with Erickson after noon that day, Pagel said.

Pagel said she told O'Connell it was not a good idea to meet the priest alone and raise the issue that he was allegedly abusing children. She said she urged him to talk to police first.

"Dan told me, 'I can handle it,' '' Pagel said.

Pagel said she saw the priest about 11:15 a.m. that day going out the back door of the rectory.

"He wasn't dressed the way he normally was. He looked like anything but a priest. That drew my attention,'' she said.

Police have said they believe O'Connell and Ellison were killed sometime between 1:08 p.m. and 1:22 p.m., which is the time Ellison received a cell phone call he didn't answer.

Michael Swanby, who said he became friends with Erickson, testified that months after the murders, he was told by Erickson that he had argued with O'Connell a day or two before the slayings.


"We were sitting around drinking some beer. He did not elaborate,'' Swanby said.

Another time, a month or two after the slayings, the priest referred to O'Connell during a visit to Swanby's home as either the devil or a demon, Swanby said.

Swanby said he tried to get Erickson to expand on that, but the priest never did.

Witnesses this afternoon included an insurance agent who met with O'Connell in Baldwin, Wis., on the morning of the killings. O'Connell told the agent he was returning to Hudson for a meeting that day, he testified.

A secretary at the church where Erickson worked said the priest would stand at a window with a gun and pretend to shoot people he "didn't care for."

A parishioner of Erickson's testified that the priest cried all through evening mass after the shootings, then attended a small gathering at a house and dropped her off, hugging and kissing her on the cheek and saying, "Pray for me."



--The Associated Press contributed.

Randy Furst is at rfurst@startribune.com.


Erickson owned 16 firearms and was proficient in weapons, including the 9-mm pistol, which was the caliber of gun used in the killings. Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun, Lundell said. Police have not found the murder weapon, however.

So proficiency with handguns is now "critical evidence"? And only 1 in 100 can use a 9mm? I taught my 60y.o. mother to shoot about a month ago. After an hour or so of practice she was hitting the target every time.

I think almost anyone could operate a 9mm well enough to shoot 2 people at close range.

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spacemanspiff
October 3, 2005, 09:04 PM
ha! at least now i have a good excuse why i have a tough time shooting my SIG! :D

motoman
October 3, 2005, 09:08 PM
It must be that rare 1% that can shoot a Sig! :D

Standing Wolf
October 3, 2005, 09:25 PM
...99 percent of the population could not use such a gun, Lundell said.

Now you know why I stick with magnum revolvers.

thatguy
October 3, 2005, 09:26 PM
I remember back in the 1950s in Texas when a business competitor of LBJ's was found with his hands tied and shot in the back with a rilfe and the local authorities ruled it a suicide.

dakotasin
October 3, 2005, 09:26 PM
so is it 1% can handle a 9mm, and of that 1%, only 1% can handle a sig???

wow... i always knew i was special. now you guys verified it.

Andrew Rothman
October 3, 2005, 09:30 PM
I sent the writer a polite email -- inviting him to the range. I think he may be surprised that he is one of the 1% as well.

Maybe I should have asked him to bring his mother, too, so we could see if she was, too. :)

Crosshair
October 3, 2005, 09:30 PM
OK, just so those 99% know. You want the end with the big hole pointing AWAY from you. :neener:

carguym14
October 3, 2005, 10:11 PM
"BIG" hole?

I thought we were talking about 9mm? ;)


Seems typical of the mainstream media anyway.

Hawkmoon
October 3, 2005, 10:22 PM
I sent the writer a polite email -- inviting him to the range. I think he may be surprised that he is one of the 1% as well.
It wasn't the writer who made up that ridiculous pseudo-statistic. It was the judge -- Lundell.

grimjaw
October 3, 2005, 10:56 PM
I personally find it more difficult to shoot revolvers than semi-auto pistols.

*hurriedly hacks and erases all THR posts*

jmm

Andrew Rothman
October 3, 2005, 11:10 PM
I sent the writer a polite email -- inviting him to the range. I think he may be surprised that he is one of the 1% as well.

It wasn't the writer who made up that ridiculous pseudo-statistic. It was the judge -- Lundell.

Um, yeah, as a journalism graduate and a former professional reporter, I actually did catch that.

But reporters are supposed to apply their own intelligence and knowledge to their jobs: With a bit of knowledge, the reporter would ask the judge what the heck he meant.

Without that personal knowledge, the reporter parrots idiocies, no matter how idiotic.

That's why I wrote. I hope the reporter takes me up on the offer.

Devonai
October 3, 2005, 11:20 PM
If the Basic Combat Training Brigade at Fort Benning can make Infantry soldiers from today's high school graduates in 14 weeks, then a person of average intelligence can learn to operate a handgun in far less time. Trust me. :D

Don Gwinn
October 3, 2005, 11:30 PM
Yup, only 1% can use a 9mm.

And I shoot a .45.

Just call me Jayne.

Hey, stupid: There are 90 million gun owners in our nation of almost 300 million people. If only people capable of using a 9mm own guns (in other words, if we can assume that everyone who doesn't own a gun is so stupid or uncoordinated as to be unable to use one) then that would give us roughly 90 divided by 300, or about 30%, as the number of people capable of using a 9mm. That is of course ridiculously low. Please hand in your gavel and back away from the bench before someone gets hurt.

torpid
October 3, 2005, 11:40 PM
Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun, Lundell said in "English", which 99 percent of the population could not use due to lack of proficiency. Lunell then proceeded to pick up a mysteriously arcane device called a "telephone" which he amazed ordinary bystanders with by speaking "English" into it, and somehow having a baked circular object described as "Pizza" unexpectedly transported to him 28 minutes later.

:what:

alpineman
October 4, 2005, 12:05 AM
Wow, if only like 1% of the population is proficient with 9mm, what infintessimalistic fractionalism of us are proficient with .45? Does that make me a minority? Can I get a tax break based on that?????

cracked butt
October 4, 2005, 12:26 AM
because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun,

The proficiency club used to be exclusively Police and Gangbangers, but now includes some priests. :rolleyes:

cobb
October 4, 2005, 12:31 AM
Erickson owned 16 firearms and was proficient in weapons, including the 9-mm pistol, which was the caliber of gun used in the killings. Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun, Lundell said.
I think that was a misprint, they meant to say would use, instead of could use. :D After all, if you where proficient with a handgun, wouldn't you use something other than a high capacity assault weapon which are the choice of street gangs. :eek:

Zundfolge
October 4, 2005, 01:11 AM
Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun

Yet on the other hand, handguns MUST be banned because they make it too easy for 99 percent of the population to kill people. :scrutiny:

El Tejon
October 4, 2005, 09:37 AM
Gee, your honor, how did you arrive at that 99%? Please show your work.

Lawyers doing math=hilarity ensues! :D

BTW, you all own me a million jillion dollars for this post. :D

Sleeping Dog
October 4, 2005, 10:20 AM
I personally find it more difficult to shoot revolvers than semi-auto pistols.
Uh, that would put you in a "different" 1-percent group. :neener:

It's the difference between murderous trained killers who litter the ground with brass, vs those that don't litter the ground with brass.

Boss Spearman
October 4, 2005, 10:34 AM
So, we're in the 1%?

What percentage are those of us who can shoot the .50 Desert Eagle in?

CAS700850
October 4, 2005, 10:39 AM
MAkes me wonder about that part of Wisconsin. Arund here, I'd imagine it might be hard to find 5% that couldn't use a 9mm.

MuzzleBlast
October 4, 2005, 02:37 PM
My 14 year old daughter is a 1-percenter, then. She handles a HiPower like it ain't no thang.

Mad Hatter
October 4, 2005, 07:15 PM
Don't know where the judge got that 1% thing, But it kinda worries me. I live in Hudson, And if this guy thinks that's so unusual I wonder what he thinks of someone who loads their own ammo. The whole thing, from the murders on in seems a bit strange.

benEzra
October 5, 2005, 12:08 PM
Considering that 25% to 30% of the U.S. population owns handguns, I think it's a little silly to say that only 1% know how to shoot one...

odysseus
October 5, 2005, 02:36 PM
Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun

:barf: Legislating opinion from the bench.

Moronic statement. Scary that this comes from a sitting judge. :scrutiny: This judge must think that the gun cases coming by the desk statistically means that a very large number of this 1% are in the their area. Wow! What are the odds... :rolleyes:

HankB
October 5, 2005, 02:50 PM
If I lived in that area, I'd be tempted to make up bumper stickers reading "Another One Percenter." :D

Andrew Rothman
October 5, 2005, 03:21 PM
I got a polite reply from the writer. He said that the shooter killed the two victims with one head shot each.

I explained that that was certainly competent shooting, but nothing spectacular at room distances.

Oh, well. We gotta try.

gunsmith
October 5, 2005, 03:28 PM
I remember back in the 1950s in Texas when a business competitor of LBJ's was found with his hands tied and shot in the back with a rilfe and the local authorities ruled it a suicide.

To mess with LBJ was suicidal....ask JFK! :evil:

KnightHawk67
October 5, 2005, 04:31 PM
Hmm,

Maybe that explains why I shoot my .45 much better than my 9mm.

:evil:

wingnutx
October 5, 2005, 05:08 PM
99 percent of the population could not use such a gun,

That's why I have a .45

KriegHund
October 5, 2005, 05:12 PM
Proficiency with handguns was "critical evidence" because 99 percent of the population could not use such a gun,

I wouldnt mind showing him just how profiecent i am with my mauser.

Moron.

Luchtaine
October 5, 2005, 05:19 PM
I'm in the top 1%! maybe I wonder what they consider proficient?

44Special
October 6, 2005, 02:22 AM
As a journalism school graduate and still a professional reporter, I have seen very few judges who will explain in an interview later what they said on the bench. In fact I THINK the canons of ethics forbid it, right or wrong as that may be.

The_Antibubba
October 6, 2005, 01:51 PM
99 percent of the population couldn't use such a gun

There's only one explanation, then:

The murder weapon was a LORCIN!

From what I read here, their 9mm may fire once, if you're lucky, but twice? Without a jam? I think the judge was being optimistic.

entropy
October 7, 2005, 10:00 AM
This judge must think that the gun cases coming by the desk statistically means that a very large number of this 1% are in the their area.

Actually, he sees very few gun crime cases outside of DNR/game law cases.


I've met Judge Lundell. Not as much anti-gun as clueless about them. I had also met Dan O'Connell, my wife knew him better. Ryan Erickson was a very disturbed individual, and I hope he gets what's coming to him in the hereafter.

I recall something about millstones in the Bible. :scrutiny:

It is nice to be part of such an exclusive group; It almost thrills me as much as when I qualified for MENSA; my attitude towards it is the same: "Doesn't everybody shoot this good?" ;)

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