The only reason Carl Ericsson, 73, could give for shooting Norman Johnson, 72, to death in January was that a jockstrap was put on Ericsson's head in a locker room when the two were in high school together during the 1950s.
Ericsson appeared in a Madison, South Dakota courtroom yesterday and was handed a life sentence with no possibility of parole. Last month, the senior pleaded not guilty but mentally ill to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Johnson, a person whom he went to high school with over 50 years ago.
USA Today reports that last Jan. 31, Ericsson went to several Madison homes, walking through backyards, looking in windows, and knocking on doors. When he came to Johnson's home, he asked the victim to identify himself. After Johnson did so, Ericsson shot him twice with a 45-caliber gun, killing him. The two men had not seen each other or spoken in years.
According to Associated Press, prosecutor Kenneth Mayer told the court that Johnson had humiliated Ericsson in a high school locker room and Ericsson never forgot it. Mayer said, "He said a jockstrap was put on his head. It's the only thing he's ever mentioned in talking to law enforcement."
About the locker room incident, Mayer was quoted in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution as saying, "I know of no one who remembers it or acknowledges it other than Carl". And Beth Ribstein, Johnson's youngest daughter, couldn't understand how anyone could hold a grudge that long. "It was just goofing off in a locker room," she said.
Johnson was a popular man in Madison. After completing his education he returned to Madison High where he taught and coached for over 30 years. More than 600 people in the small town attended his funeral.
There was psychiatric evidence before the court that Ericsson suffered from long term depression and anxiety. Despite the fact he was taking several medications, it was found his depression was resistant to treatment.
Judge Vince Foley wasn't buying it. He was quoted by KELO as saying, "Your medical records make it clear that you knew right from wrong. I've reviewed all of your records and it's apparent to me that you just didn't give a darn."
Ericsson was originally charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors agreed to a plea to second-degree murder as long the sentence was life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.