Double Murder by Sexually Abusive Priest Gives Rise to New Wrongful Death Lawsuit Posted on : Tue, 12 Dec 2006 20:16:00 GMT| Author :Jeff Anderson & Associates
News Category : PressRelease
ST. PAUL,Minn., Dec. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- A Wisconsin couple whose son wasmurdered by a bizarre and sexually abusive Catholic priest is"reluctantly" filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the SuperiorDiocese that ordained and hired the cleric. Carsten and Sally Ellisonof Barron, Wisconsin, filed a civil lawsuit today in St. Croix CountyCourt, Wisconsin, Court File No. 06CV938 assigned to Judge Lundellseeking unspecified damages for the loss of their 22-year-old son,James Ellison. He and Daniel O'Connell were shot and killed at theO'Connell Family Funeral Home in Hudson by Fr. Ryan Erickson inFebruary 2002. Days earlier, O'Connell had apparently confrontedErickson, his parish priest, about allegations that Erickson wasmolesting local children.Themurders were unsolved for more than two years. During interviews withHudson police in 2004, Ryan Erickson disclosed details about the crimescene that had not been released to the public; as police began tostrongly suspect Erickson, he hanged himself outside the church he wasthen serving in Hurley, Wisconsin. Through their extensiveinvestigation the police learned that for years Erickson had engaged ina variety of suspicious and disturbing behaviors, such as allegationsof sexual assault; excessive alcohol use; violence against animals,including his own dog; as well as a fascination with guns, usuallycarrying one on his person. This evidence was presented to St. CroixCounty Judge Eric Lundell at a hearing in October 2005, who ruled therewas probable cause to believe Erickson had killed O'Connell and Ellisonin a "premeditated" fashion.
TheEllisons' lawsuit contends the Diocese of Superior was fully aware ofRyan Erickson's behaviors but did nothing, allowing him to be ordaineddespite the misgivings of some of his seminary professors. The Diocesethen placed Erickson at St. Patrick's parish in Hudson withoutdisclosing any information regarding his past to its parishioners orclergy."Thiswas a very hard decision for us," the Ellisons stated. "We struggledwith this for a long time. We finally concluded this is the only way wecan obtain some measure of accountability, or responsibility for, thedeaths of our son and Dan O'Connell." The Ellison family has set up anon-profit corporation entitled The James Ellison Foundation for theProtection of Children, Inc. "We want people to know from the startthat any monetary gain from this legal action will go directly intothat foundation. No proceeds would ever be used for our personal use,"said Carsten. Sally added, "It is our hope that some good can stillcome out of this tragedy. We want to do what we can to prevent the painof child sexual abuse, but also to provide counseling and after-carefor those who have been abused in the past. That is our vision for thefoundation."TheEllisons are fully supportive of the efforts of Dan O'Connell's parentsand siblings in working for change within the Catholic Church,regarding the handling of pedophile priests and their victims. TheO'Connells have proposed a five-step plan, including releasing thenames of predatory clergy, a discipline mechanism to hold accountablethose bishops who ordain troubled priests, full disclosure of recordsinvolving priests and other church personnel who have molestedchildren, a measurable plan for caring for victims of clergy abuse, andsupport from bishops in reforming state child sexual abuse laws. Dan'sbrother, Tom O'Connell of Madison, Wisconsin, said, "We have spentcountless hours researching and developing our five-point reform plan,and we are absolutely convinced these are the actions the bishops musttake if the church is to heal and if the children are to be safe."Both families are represented by St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson. For a copy of the complaint contact 651-227-9990.Jeff Anderson & Associates
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