Criminal complaints offer new details into allegations against former Wisconsin priest

November 19, 2018 10:27 PM

A former Wisconsin priest is accused of preying on several minors who served as altar boys at his churches in the early 1980s, according to details contained in the criminal complaints filed against him.

Thomas Edward Ericksen, 71, was living in Minneapolis and was arrested Friday in Hennepin County after being charged with sexual assault in Wisconsin.

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Court records show Ericksen is charged with second-degree sexual assault of an unconscious victim, second-degree sexual assault against a child and first-degree sexual assault against a child. According to Jeff Anderson & Associates, a law firm which represents victims of sexual abuse, Ericksen was ordained in 1973 and worked in Wisconsin parishes until 1988, when he was permanently removed from ministry.

Ericksen left Wisconsin, even left the country and lived in Indonesia for a while. For years, no one knew of his whereabouts. Court records showed he returned to the United States in 2013 and his name was added to the list of predator priests. In 2016, investigators interviewed Ericksen, where he freely admitted to "fondling five boys," yet was never charged.

However within the past few days, complaints surfaced against him from the Soup Kitchen at Bethany Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis. Terri Parks is a volunteer and heard Ericksen who often came for lunch make some alarming remarks.

"He would a lot of the times comment on how handsome somebody was and they were younger people," she said.

Ericksen was banned from the cafe but recently was allowed to return. Parks says he continued making inappropriate comments to school-aged boys. That's when volunteers called the police, which brought Ericksen back on the radar of investigators.  


More from KSTP:

Former Wisconsin priest arrested in Minnesota on sexual assault charges


The criminal complaints detail allegations made by several former altar boys at churches where Ericksen worked, some of whom say the priest became like a surrogate father to them before he molested them. One boy was under the age of 12, another was unconscious and a third was reportedly raped. 

One complaint alleges Ericksen loaned the individual his car to attend a high school dance. The individual said he consumed alcohol at a house party afterward, then returned Ericksen's car. Ericksen allegedly suggested he stay overnight in a spare room at the rectory.

But the individual alleges Ericksen then proceeded to sexually assault him as he slipped in and out of consciousness.

Ericksen faces three felony charges of criminal sexual conduct, an extradition hearing Tuesday afternoon and faces the possibility of being labeled a sex offender. 

The Wisconsin Attorney General's office said even though 35 years have passed, the case can move forward because the statute of limitations essentially stopped when Ericksen left the state and country. 

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Frank Rajkowski & Beth McDonough

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