A 73-year-old South Dakota man was sentenced to life in prison after admitting to the murder of a former high school classmate for one of the most bizarre belated grudges on record: He was still mad that his victim had once pulled a jock strap over his head in a locker room prank.
As reported by the Associated Press, no one knew why Carl Ericsson, a Madison (S.D.) High graduate, had killed Norman Johnson, a classmate at Madison in the 1950s. The murderer was a North Dakota State University graduate who went on to have a successful 25-year career as an insurance salesman. He has been married to his wife for some 44 years.
Yet Ericsson was apparently severely depressed throughout those life successes, with a psychiatrist finding that the senior citizen was suffering through a treatment-resistant depression that led to suicidal thoughts. Shockingly, the action that seems to have been a primary motivator for some of that depression was a locker room prank between two classmates whose paths intertwined with the Madison track and field program.
Ericsson's victim, fellow 73-year-old Norman Johnson, was a star on the Madison track team while Ericsson was a student sports manager. According to Ericsson, one afternoon in the school locker room, Johnson put a jock strap on Ericsson's head, humiliating the sports manager and planting a seed of resentment that grew for more than half a century.
While Ericsson's intervening years between high school and deadly attack were successful, Johnson's were much more notable in the community. The former Madison star athlete competed in college football, earned a degree and then taught and coached at his alma mater for more than three decades, earning plenty of prestige in the small upper Midwestern community of less than 4,000.
While the case's prosecutor said that no one besides Ericsson had corroborated the tale of the locker room prank, Ericsson has insisted that it was the reason why he rang Johnson's doorbell in February and then shot him dead as soon as the man confirmed that he was, in fact, Norman Johnson.
"I guess it was from something that happened over 50 years ago," Ericsson told a judge in February. "It was apparently in my subconscious."
While Ericsson has since repented for his murder and apologized to Johnson's widow in a courtroom on Friday, he was still sentenced to life in prison for his action, a judgment that will leave two families without their patriarchs for the remaining stretches of their lives, all for a simple locker room prank gone bad.
"I just wish I could turn the calendar back," Ericsson told Johnson's widow Barb in court on Friday.
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