Wisconsin priest abuse case: Sawyer County sheriff says two more victims came forward
By Laura Schulte
Wausau Daily Herald
January 8, 2019
|Former Catholic priest Thomas Ericksen looks back on the gallery before a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, at the Sawyer County courthouse in Hayward, Wis. Erickson faces one count of first degree sexual assault of a child and two counts of second degree sexual assault of a child.|
Photo by Tork Mason
|Thomas E. Ericksen|
Investigators are looking into two new cases of alleged sexual abuse by a former Wisconsin priest charged in November with three assaults dating to the early 1980s.
Sawyer County Sheriff Douglas Mrotek said Tuesday that the department is investigating the new allegations against Thomas Ericksen.
Ericksen, 71, was arrested Nov. 16 in Minneapolis after the Sawyer County Sheriff's Department issued a warrant. He was accused of sexually abusing at least three boys between June 1982 and April 1983 while he was stationed at St. Peter's Church in Winter, Wis.
He was charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault of a child, one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child and one count of second-degree sexual assault of an unconscious victim. He was extradited from Minnesota to Wisconsin on Nov. 30.
The Catholic priest served in Rice Lake, Rhinelander and Merrill before being sent to Winter, and left the priesthood in 1989 after a civil case against the Superior Diocese led to a $3 million settlement with two victims.
Ericksen's arrest came eight years after Sawyer County investigators learned about the alleged assaults and two years after he partially confessed. In 2016, he admitted to investigators that he had "fondled" three boys in Winter, as well as two boys in other Wisconsin cities, according to the criminal complaint.
Sawyer County District Attorney Bruce Poquette took no action on the complaints until mid-November, when an assistant prosecutor filed charges against Ericksen. The charges came two weeks after USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin submitted a public records request for any investigation documents in the stalled case.
Poquette has neither responded to the records request nor answered questions about why the charges took more than two years to file after he received a referral from the Sheriff's Department.
Mrotek said that the lead investigator, Bryan Deyo, is investigating the two cases, but he wasn't sure when the victims came forward. He also said that he couldn't confirm if the assaults occurred in Sawyer County or another jurisdiction. No new charges had been filed as of Tuesday.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin has interviewed two of the three victims in the cases filed against Ericksen, as well as a third man who said the former priest acted inappropriately with him and other boys in Merrill in the early 1980s. That third man told the news network on Tuesday that he had not gone to Sawyer County investigators with his allegations, so he is not among the latest two victims to come forward.
Ericksen is being held at the Sawyer County jail on a $500,000 bond. He is expected to appear in court Jan. 22 for his arraignment.