A judge in Wisconsin ruled on Monday that a Roman Catholic parish priest found hanged in an apparent suicide likely killed two people, perhaps because one of them had uncovered evidence of sexual abuse.
St. Croix County Judge Eric Lundell found there was a very high probability that the Rev. Ryan Erickson killed two men at a funeral home in Hudson, Wisconsin, in February 2002.
According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune the judge felt prosecutors had presented a very strong case of circumstantial evidence, including indications that on at least 10 occasions Erickson touched a young man inappropriately.
The ruling came as the Vatican is reportedly considering a ban on the admission of homosexuals to the clergy, and is conducting an inspection of more than 200 U.S. seminaries to check for homosexual activity and the way that candidates for the priesthood are being taught to practice celibacy.
Killed at a funeral home in Hudson, Wisconsin, not far from St. Paul, were Dan O'Connell, 39, a funeral director, and his intern, James Ellison, 22.
Erickson, 31, was found hanged in December 2004 from a fire escape at his parish in Hurley, a village in northern Wisconsin, not long after he was questioned by police.
County prosecutor Eric Johnson said evidence indicates O'Connell found out something about the priest - perhaps sexual abuse or giving alcohol to underage youths - that may have been a motive, Reuters reports.
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