Carl Ericsson, 73, murdered classmate over bullying incident that happened half-century ago

Categories: Crime
Carl Ericsson sq.jpg
Carl Ericsson's story suggests time doesn't necessarily heal psychological wounds.
In January, Carl Ericsson, a 73-year-old resident of Watertown, South Dakota, rang the doorbell at the home of former high school classmate Norman Johnson, asked Johnson to verify his identity, then shot him dead.

The reason? A bullying incident that took place when the two were high school classmates during the 1950s.

Ericsson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month, telling the judge he was motivated by "something that happened over 50 years ago... It was apparently in my subconscious."

Friday, Ericsson received a mandatory life sentence. During the hearing, the prosecuting attorney provided new detail about the half century-old bullying incident, saying that "back at a time when Carl Ericsson was the student manager for the sports team he said that a jock strap was put on his head," presumably by Johnson, who went on to teach and coach track for 30 years in Madison, South Dakota.

Johnson's eldest daughter, Beth Ribstein, told Ericsson she "can't blame you for being jealous of dad."

"In high school he was popular, he was athletic, he dated mom," she added. "They had 52 wonderful years together and two daughters that adored him, four grandchildren that worshiped their grandpa."

Referring to the fateful jock strap incident, Ribstein shook her head and said, "It was just goofing off in a locker room."

According to a psychiatrist who evaluated him in late January, Ericsson, a retired life insurance salesman, was mentally ill at the time of the murder. He suffered from "severe and recurrent depression that is, for the most part, treatment resistant," the psychiatrist wrote, adding that Ericsson's "thinking was irrational."

Indeed, during yesterday's hearing, Ericsson expressed remorse for acting on his more than 50-year-old grudge.

"I just wish I could turn the calendar back," he said.

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