MADISON, S.D. – An old grudge that spanned more than a half-century may have led a 73-year-old man to fatally shoot his long-ago classmate at his South Dakota home, according to a court affidavit filed Thursday.
Carl V. Ericsson, of Watertown, was denied bond Thursday during his first court appearance on a first-degree murder charge. The former high school sports star is accused of shooting retired Madison High School teacher and track coach Norman Johnson, 72, after Johnson answered the door at his house on Tuesday evening in Madison.
Ericsson's brother, Madison resident Dick Ericsson, said in the affidavit that his brother suffers from depression and alcoholism and the two last talked about six months ago. He said his brother was a sports manager at Madison High years ago and "there was an incident where Norm Johnson did something to Carl."
"Since that time, over 50 years ago, Carl has held a grudge against Norm Johnson," the affidavit said. "Dick said that he brought up the name of Norm Johnson some time back and Carl was still upset about the situation and called Norm Johnson a son of a bitch."
Shortly after the shooting, Johnson's wife, Barbara, found him lying on the floor and saw a man walking to a dark sedan parked outside.
Johnson died of two gunshot wounds to the face, an autopsy determined.
Carl Ericsson, bearded and with gray hair, walked slowly into the courtroom Thursday afternoon, saying nothing before taking a seat and waiting for his bond hearing to begin
Scott Bratland, Ericsson's attorney, said his client has been married to his wife, Deanna, for more than 44 years, is a North Dakota State University graduate and recently retired from a 25-year insurance career.
The judge denied a request to have Ericsson's bond set at $100,000, saying he was a potential flight or suicide risk.
Ericsson faces a Feb. 16 preliminary hearing, at which he's expected to enter a plea.
Such violence is rare in the eastern South Dakota city 6,500 and put many residents on edge as police went door-to-door in Johnson's neighborhood, asking if residents had seen anything suspicious Tuesday night. Many residents left on their porch lights overnight as police scoured the city for suspects.
The slaying was apparently the first one in Madison since 1906.
Investigators say that soon after Johnson was shot, a man matching the suspect's description was spotted trying to enter the home of another retired Madison High School teacher and coach, Orlyn Larson. Officers collected two flashlights and photographed tire and shoe impressions outside of the house. A resident then reported seeing a man a quarter-mile away outside of Dick Ericsson's home.
When investigators interviewed Carl Ericsson on Wednesday at his Watertown home, they reported seeing items that piqued their interest — including two flashlights similar to those seized outside of Larson's house and a Glock hangun. With Ericsson's permission, officers looked at his Ford Taurus and noted that the tire treads appeared consistent with tracks left at two of the Madison homes.
During an interview at the Watertown Police station, Ericsson acknowledged being in Madison on Tuesday and having the handgun with him, but denied remembering Johnson or going to his house, according to the affidavit.
"Carl stated that if he was going to shoot anybody, it would have been his brother," the affidavit said.
Officers eventually executed a search warrant on Ericsson's home and recovered a .45-caliber Colt Long Uberti firearm and several .45-caliber shell casings.
Johnson was remembered Wednesday night during a community gathering at Trinity Lutheran Church, where he was an active member, said Pastor Dirk Hagmaier.
"He was very committed to the church and to the community," Hagmaier said. "Children — many children — would have gone hungry if not for him."
Associated Press News Editor Amber Hunt contributed to this report from Sioux Falls, S.D.