Rubén Rosario: Might pope bring peace to grieving Hudson family?

Pioneer Press

By Rubén Rosario
POSTED: 08/29/2015

Many people would love an audience with Pope Francis, my kind of pope, during his weeklong U.S. trip next month to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.

Tom O’Connell of Hudson, Wis., is one of them. Heck, as a humble but still wretched sinner, I also want to hug or shake his Holiness’ hand — I don’t kiss rings — and then bend his ears. But I would gladly have Tom take my place on the long line of remote hopefuls.

“I realize there are hundreds of others who would like to meet you and all have very great need,” the funeral home owner wrote in a typed letter he sent the pope at his Vatican address in February.

“I feel my circumstances and situation needs to be heard, not just because my family needs to heal, but also because the tragic chain of events that led to the loss of three lives, damage to other young lives and damaged faith in God is being repeated over and over,” the two-page missive continues. “Helping my family to heal will hopefully lead to healing for many other families and the Catholic Church. It would show your healing power to the many who have suffered.”

On Feb. 5, 2002, a medical examiner arriving to get signatures on a death certificate found Daniel, 39 — O’Connell’s second-oldest son and the director of the family-run business — shot to death in his office at the O’Connell Funeral Home in downtown Hudson. Nearby lay the body of James Ellison, 22, a University of Minnesota mortuary sciences intern. For nearly two years, the case remained unsolved and the subject of rumors about who did it. A double homicide is big news in a bucolic place like Hudson.


Cops, after chasing well over 1,000 tips and leads that went nowhere, dug up evidence pointing at the most shocking and unlikeliest of killers: an associate pastor at nearby St. Patrick Church.

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