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Carl Ericsson was charged in the killing Norman Johnson, a retired high school teacher and track coach.
Carl Ericsson was charged in the killing Norman Johnson, a retired high school teacher and track coach.Dirk Lammers/Associated Press/Associated Press

MADISON, S.D. - A 74-year-old South Dakota man accused of fatally shooting his long-ago classmate in a grudge reaching back decades pleaded guilty but mentally ill on Tuesday to a second-degree murder charge.

Carl Ericsson was charged in the Jan. 31 killing of retired Madison High School teacher and track coach Norman Johnson. Johnson was shot twice in the face after answering his door at his home in Madison. Johnson's wife, Barbara, found him lying on the floor and saw a man walking to a dark sedan.

An arrest affidavit suggests the shooting might have been sparked by a decades-old grudge that originated when the two were students at Madison High.

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Ericsson told Judge Vince Foley on Tuesday that he rang the doorbell at Johnson's house but first asked his old classmate to verify his identity before shooting him with a .45-caliber pistol. "I guess it was from something that happened over 50 years ago,'' Ericsson said during his arraignment. "It was apparently in my subconscious.''