Former Winter priest charged with sexually assaulting altar boys
By Terrell Boettcher
Sawyer County Record
November 17, 2018
In charges filed Friday, Nov. 16, the Sawyer County District Attorney’s office is accusing a former parish priest at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Winter with sexually abusing altar boys while he was stationed in Winter in 1982 and 1983.
Thomas Edward Ericksen, 71, now residing in Minneapolis, is charged with first-degree felony sexual abuse of a boy under the age of 12 from June 1, 1982, through April 1, 1983, in the village of Winter; second-degree felony sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy on Sept. 17, 1982; and second-degree felony sexual assault of an unconscious victim on Feb. 4, 1983.
The charges were filed by Assistant District Attorney Aaron Marcoux, based on an investigation by the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Office.
On Nov. 16, a Sawyer County warrant was issued for Ericksen’s arrest. A court date has not been set.
According to bishopaccountability.org, Ericksen was removed from the priesthood in 1988. The Superior Diocese settled with Ericksen’s accusers in 1989 for several million dollars.
If convicted of the Sawyer County charges, Ericksen would face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for first-degree felony sexual assault of a child; 10 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine for second-degree felony sexual assault of a child; and 10 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine for sexual assault of an unconscious victim.
According to the court complaint, Ericksen became the priest at St. Peter’s Church in Winter in the summer of 1982. In an interview with a Sawyer County sheriff’s deputy, a boy under the age of 12, identified as Victim No. 1 in the criminal complaint, said Ericksen began having sexual contact with him shortly after he began serving as an altar boy in the summer of 1982, and the sexual contact continued until Ericksen’s abrupt departure from the church in late winter 1983.
In a June, 2016, interview with a Sawyer County detective and then-sheriff Mark Kelsey at Ericksen’s home in Minneapolis, “Thomas Ericksen acknowledged fondling Victim No. 1 in addition to four other altar boys while he was installed at St. Peter’s Church in Winter as the pastor,” the court complaint states. “Thomas Ericksen recalled fondling another child while stationed in Rice Lake and another child while stationed in Rhinelander. He recalled a civil settlement wherein the Catholic Church reached a financial settlement on his behalf with the victims from St. Peter’s Church in Winter.”
According to the complaint, Ericksen left Wisconsin almost immediately after the molestation incidents in Winter and he resided in Minnesota, Missouri and Indonesia, but never returned to Wisconsin to live.