For immediate release: Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008
Murderous priest case tossed out, Sex abuse victims respond
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503
It's heart-breaking that there's apparently no justice for this
suffering family who lost a loved one to a murderous, child-molesting
Catholic officials had repeated warnings and evidence that Erickson was
a very sick, angry, violent pedophile. Yet they ordained him and hired
him and transferred and deceived parishioners into believing that he was
a holy, celibate priest.
We hope the Ellisons will continue to try to hold the church hierarchy
accountable for Erickson's devastating crimes. And we hope that others
who were hurt by Erickson and other Wisconsin clerics will come forward
and get help.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's
oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been
around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country.
Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were
molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns,
rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely
(414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris
(314-862-7688), Mary Grant (626-419-2930), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940)
Judge rejects wrongful death lawsuit
Associated Press - 6:42 AM CDT, September 24, 2008
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - A western Wisconsin judge has dismissed a wrongful
death lawsuit filed by the parents of a man who was killed by a priest.
Carsten and Sally Ellison of Barron filed a lawsuit in St. Croix County
Circuit Court against the Catholic Diocese of Superior over the death of
their 22-year-old son, James Ellison. He was fatally shot along with
39-year-old Dan O'Connell in 2002 at the O'Connell Family Funeral Home
Eau Claire County Judge Paul Lenz handled the case. He says it's "too
remote" to think the diocese would have had any reason to believe the
Rev. Ryan Erickson would kill someone.
Erickson was removed from St. Patrick Church in Hudson, moved to
Ladysmith and then Hurley, where he hanged himself in 2004. A St. Croix
County judge ruled in 2005 that Erickson murdered both men because he
was afraid O'Connell would report Erickson's obsession with young boys,
alcohol and firearms to church officials.
Information from: Leader-Telegram, http://www.leadertelegram.com/
Lawsuit rejected in case of priest who killed two
By Chuck Rupnow, Leader-Telegram staff
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Carsten and Sally Ellison of Barron
against the Catholic Diocese of Superior for the murder of their son by
a priest was dismissed Tuesday afternoon in a summary judgment by Eau
Claire County Judge Paul Lenz. Lenz, in an oral ruling, said it was "too
remote" to think the diocese would have any reason to believe the Rev.
Ryan Erickson would kill someone based on the information it had before
the double murder occurred.
Even if the diocese did have information about Erickson's suspected
temper, child pornography and violent tendencies, Lenz said, "it would
appear such negligence would not have brought about such harm."
The Ellisons of Barron said they filed the suit to hold the diocese
accountable and to spur changes regarding who it accepts as priests and
how it handles priests who might be unfit to serve.
Any monetary awards from the lawsuit would have gone to the James
Ellison Foundation for the Protection of Children, an organization to
protect children from sexual abuse and provide aftercare to those assaulted.
James Ellison, 22, and Dan O'Connell, 39, were shot to death Feb. 5,
2002, inside the O'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson.
O'Connell was a co-owner in the family business, while Ellison was a
mortuary science student who was interning there and was expected to
join the business full time after graduating from the University of
The murder remained unsolved for years. Erickson was removed from St.
Patrick Church in Hudson, moving to Ladysmith and then Hurley, where he
hanged himself outside that parish in December 2004, according to court
and police records. He was 31.
St. Croix County Judge Eric Lundell ruled in October 2005 Erickson
murdered both men because he was afraid O'Connell would report
Erickson's obsession with young boys, alcohol and firearms to church
The Ellisons' lawsuit was filed in St. Croix County Court. Lenz was
assigned the case. The suit requests unspecified damages for loss of
society and companionship, funeral costs and medical expenses.
"We are obviously disappointed," said attorney Richard Jasperson of St.
Paul, who represented the Ellisons in the lawsuit, adding it was
premature to discuss appealing the case. "We will do whatever is in the
best interest of the Ellisons."
Attorney Kyle Torvinen of Superior, who represented the diocese, said
Tuesday that Lenz's decision was appropriate and "justice was done, and
we're glad of that. It has been a long road."
The Ellisons did not participate in a lawsuit filed by O'Connell's
relatives against all 194 U.S. Catholic bishops. That suit demanded
names of predatory priests be made public.
Washburn County Judge Eugene Harrington threw that case out earlier this
year, saying the Superior diocese can't be forced to release information
about how the church deals with sex abuse by its priests.
Harrington called the O'Connells' lawsuit an "ambitious request" and
dismissed the case.
The injunction the family sought "has no foundation under Wisconsin
law," Harrington wrote, and to force the church to change its policies
"infringes upon the First Amendment."
Rupnow can be reached at 830-5831, 800-236-7077 or chuck. firstname.lastname@example.org.