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Hudson Police Department presents O'Connell case to DA; investigation still open

The Hudson Police Department is once again asking for the public's help in its investigation of the murders of Dan O'Connell and James Ellison.

Father Ryan Erickson, who was a priest at St. Patrick's at the time of the murders, is under investigation in connection with the homicides. Erickson committed suicide last December in Hurley after being questioned about the case and other possible criminal activity and following a search of his residence and office there.

Hudson Police Chief Dick Trende said Monday that investigators had met last Friday to discuss their investigation to date with District Attorney Eric Johnson and city attorney Catherine Munkittrick. Following that meeting the department listed several areas where they are still seeking information from the public including:

--Any information regarding any person who may have had a meeting, planned or unplanned, or any contacts with Dan O'Connell or James Ellison on Feb. 5, 2002, or the day or days before the homicides.

--Any facts regarding information that Dan O'Connell or James Ellison may have obtained about inappropriate or possibly criminal conduct of other person(s).

--Any information on the possession or sale of a firearm that may be related to the murders.

--Any information about the possible owner or operator of a light-colored mid-size car (possibly a GM product) that was seen in front of the O'Connell funeral home around the time of the homicides. The vehicle in question had a black license plate bracket that was missing the front plate.

District Attorney Eric Johnson said that he met with HPD investigators for five hours on Friday and together they identified some follow-up information that the investigators would pursue.

Following that, Johnson said he would likely meet with the O'Connell and Ellison families to discuss the findings and lay out the options his office could take in the case.

Among those are another John Doe closed hearing of the evidence with testimony in a closed session before a judge. There is also the option of holding a coroner's inquest into the case. Both options would result in a finding of probable cause -- that is, whether there was sufficient evidence to charge someone with the murders.

Johnson said he would make the decision on which option to take after the investigation was completed and after consulting the families. He stated he would also likely talk to Erickson's family about any action his office would take.

In his press release, Trende asked the public to come forward with "any information regardless of how small it may seem." To contact the Hudson Police Department, call (715) 386-4771.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604