November 20, 2018 10:14 PM
It's a moment, 52-year-old Paul Eck, worried would never come.
An arrest and criminal charges against a former priest who Eck says violated him 35 years ago. Eck was 17-years-old at the time and an altar boy. Thomas Ericksen served as a priest at St. Peter's Church in Winter, Wisconsin. Eck was one of three boys to report Father Ericksen to police in the early 1980's. Sawyer County started a criminal investigation, but over time it stalled.
"I have real issues with how this was handled," Eck said.
Father Eriksen abruptly left the Superior Diocese in 1983. In internal church documents, leaders acknowledged "Ericksen abused boys." In 1988, he was completely removed from Priesthood. Ericksen left Wisconsin, and even left the country and went on to live a little-known, quiet life as a free man.
"My fear is there [have] been a lot more people victimized who hopefully will come forward," said Eck.
Court records indicate Ericksen came back to the United States from Indonesia in 2013. At about the same time, his name was added to the list of predator priests. He eventually surfaced in Minneapolis and in 2016, investigators questioned him.
In a police report, Ericksen confessed to police he "fondled boys" and said there were five boys, more than originally thought. Investigators turned their findings over to the Sawyer County attorney to review. Charges were never filed.
But two years later in 2018, a volunteer at a south Minneapolis soup kitchen reported Ericksen to police, saying she heard him making disturbing remarks to young boys.
"I just had to say something, it made me sick," said Terri Parks.
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Sawyer County took quick action. Ericksen was arrested and charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct for crimes against three boys 35 years ago. Eck said this day was long overdue.
"It feels good to know he's not going to be on the streets and young boys are not in danger anymore," he said.
Ericksen is now 71 and in custody at the Hennepin County jail. He waived extradition Tuesday. It's not clear when he'll be sent back to Sawyer County where the crimes were committed. Ericksen has a public defender and efforts by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS to reach the attorney were unsuccessful.
The Sawyer County attorney, Bruce Poquette, said Tuesday he didn't have time to answer questions on why Ericksen wasn't arrested and charged after he confessed in 2016, and instead, two more years passed before he was arrested.
A court date in Wisconsin is pending.
Updated: November 20, 2018 10:14 PM
Created: November 20, 2018 09:55 PM
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