1.14.2005

Closer to an answer every day?

Father Erickson's actions, statements make him suspect
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

By Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer reporter

The Hudson Police Department appears to have had good reason to investigate the late Father Ryan Erickson as a suspect in the February 2002 murders of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison as well as other crimes.

From information obtained at the Hudson Police Department, the Star-Observer has learned that Erickson was interviewed twice last year -- Nov. 11 and Dec. 7 -- prior to the early December search of his residence in Hurley.

Hudson Police Chief Dick Trende confirmed Tuesday that Erickson was the subject of an investigation into possible improper and criminal activity with minors before he was ever considered a "person of interest" in the O'Connell/Ellison murder investigation. It was through facts gathered in that investigation that police began to look at him in connection with the murders.

Trende said inconsistencies in Erickson's statements to police during their interviews with him raised suspicions that ultimately led them to seek the search warrant. St. Croix County Judge Scott Needham sealed the search warrant shortly after Erickson's death to protect the ongoing investigation.

In interviews, Erickson revealed details of the crime scene that were never released to the public. According to investigators, when asked about how he knew these details, Erickson said he was informed of them by an individual who was at the funeral home following the discovery of the murders.

When police interviewed that individual, he denied having spoken about any details at the crime scene to Erickson. Erickson then gave police another source for his information but that person also denied discussing any crime scene details with Erickson.

Investigators also noted that Erickson could not remember where he was on the day of the murders and that in subsequent interviews his statement had changed about his whereabouts and other details.

Police also noted that Erickson was driving a car that matched the description of one seen parked at the O'Connell Funeral Home on the day of the murders and that he matched the general description of a man seen driving away in the vehicle.

The Star-Observer has requested that documents found on Erickson's desk the day of his death, including a letter he wrote and his last will and testament, be released.

Trende again appealed to anyone with information about Erickson or the murders to come forward and talk with investigators. "This is not about pinning something on Father Erickson but at getting at the truth, which is what everybody wants."

More on this story in this week's print edition of the Hudson Star-Observer.

Those of you new to my blog may not know that I went to school with Dan. We are fast approaching the three year anniversary of his death and our entire community mourns his and James's deaths every day.

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