Priest's Will, More Evidence Released
Documents Found at Church, Rectory
By Kevin Harter
Pioneer Press [Wisconsin]
February 3, 2006
Four months after a judge ruled that the Rev. Ryan Erickson likely killed two men and sexually abused a teenage boy, the Hudson city attorney on Thursday released 99 pages of records that offer more insights into the life of the troubled priest.
The records, obtained by investigators after a search warrant was served at St. Mary's Catholic Church and rectory in Hurley, Wis., include eight pages documenting dozens of images of nude young males found in a computer there.
The records also include Erickson's will, in which he assigned his large gun collection and other items to friends and family, and a statement that discussed his own failings but professed innocence in the 2002 murders of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison at a Hudson funeral home.
Investigators served the search warrant Dec. 16, 2004. Three days later, Erickson hanged himself from a church fire escape.
Some information gained in that search already has been released, but this is the first time Hudson City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick has made all of that evidence available.
Hudson Police Chief Dick Trende said Thursday the findings left investigators with suspicions that Erickson was involved in a sexual abuse case.
"There were red flags, tons of red flags," Trende said. "What we found was a pattern, a substantial pattern of conduct which is consistent with an abuse investigation."
Trende said the files containing pornographic photos were password protected. Some files also featured inaccurate names, such as one titled "Holy Mass Prayers," that included photos of young males engaged in sex.
The images appeared to show males whose ages ranged from the early teens to early 20s.
Trende said witnesses also claim to have seen Erickson viewing pornography on the computer, although this was not included in information released Thursday.
Included in the records released Thursday was a three-page will of the 31-year-old Erickson. On the first page, he assigned his belongings to relatives and friends, including some minors whose names were removed.
A letter addressed to family and friends is nearly two pages long and touches on several topics — from the state of the world and mistakes made by Erickson to his claims of innocence in the funeral home killings.
"Ultimately, I have grown tired of this weary world and of all the evil it has unleashed in the last 100 years. I am extremely tired (and disappointed) with myself, and of the evils I have all too often performed. I do not know why I did what I did, believe me. I have often thought and prayed about it.
"Why was I so lustful. Was I 'wired' that way … to easy an excuse! Was I made that way through the environment … to easy an excuse! I can only say: It was my fault. I chose, be it in the heat of passion, to do the things I did. Please believe me when I say that I was always sorry for my actions after I performed them. I did NOT, however, kill Dan O'Connell or James — or anyone for that matter."
On the third page of his will, Erickson wrote that politics and his personality kept him from being the priest he could have been. "In the end, I do not think I made all that much difference."
Erickson concluded that he was ready to die.
"I am ready to leave this horrible world. I am ready to sleep forever. Anxiety, worry, fear, and stress have been a part of my life from the time I was twelve, and I am tired of it. I am tired of the politics in the Church, I am tired of feeling out of place and evil, I am tired of everything. There is no way to change this world, it is on its final end … Thank God! How much more can we expect the Good Lord to endure?"
At times apologetic and conciliatory, Erickson is defiant when he criticizes investigators.
"… None of my guns matched, no DNA of mine was found, no one saw me leaving from the funeral parlor, and I have cooperated with the investigators. Prove that I did it. … Produce hard evidence. … You cannot."
The search warrant also turned up several notes, including a page of what appears to be lyrics with racist statements about blacks. Trende said investigators had no reason to pursue the question of whether Erickson had written the document.
Investigators also found several notes found in the rectory, apparently written for a visitor. The notes read in part, "I'm up in my room. Ryan. XOXO," and "Wear these, please. Ryan. XOXO."
Kevin Harter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-950-9080, ext. 2149.
In his will, the Rev. Ryan Erickson bequeathed his possessions, including these items:
• Parents — electronics; pictures of Jesus looking over Jerusalem and Simeon holding the baby Jesus; ordination purificator.
• Brother Travis Erickson —Winchester 30/30 rifle with scope; Browning pistol; his grandfather's black bayonet; his father's Vietnam bayonet and handgun; ammunition; his dog.
• Friend Sonya Dudor — picture of eagle in flight; cross of St. Francis; statue of Virgin Mary.
• Friend Samuel Reese — Marlin rifle; handgun; mountain bike; collectible bears and teddy bears.
• Minor — sacred vestments; religious books; ring; rosary; Ruger rifle with scope; ordination chalice.
• Minor — swords and weapons on the wall; Highpoint pistol; video games; sacred chalice.
• Minor — Savage rifle; picture of St. Padre Pio; all shotguns; sacred chalice.
• Minor — Red Hawk Ruger pistol; movie collection; crossbow; TV and VCR.
• Minor — picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe; oval hanging bust of Jesus that lights up
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