|Cause of priest’s death revealed
Autopsy shows Freed beaten with wooden stake and gutter pipe
An autopsy report showed Catholic priest Eric Freed was beaten to death with a wooden stake and a metal gutter pipe.
The body of Eric Freed, the beloved priest who also served at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cotati, was found the morning of Jan. 1 in the rectory of his church in Eureka, St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, around 9 a.m. by staff members. It is believed Freed was killed in the early hours of Jan. 1.
Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris said investigators would not release more details of how Freed was beaten because the case remains under investigation.
Gary Lee Bullock, 44, of Humboldt County, was arrested on Jan. 2 outside Garberville and charged with murder with a special allegation of torture. He is also charged with burglary, arson and auto theft. The Eureka Times-Standard reported Bullock entered a not guilty plea, and bail was set at $1.2 million.
Eureka authorities say Bullock allegedly got into the rectory by breaking a side window.
Also, authorities revealed Bullock was released from jail on a disorderly conduct charge several hours before Freed was killed. The jail is located near the church.
Bullock was spotted on church grounds by a security guard who was passing by. The guard called the police, and an officer eventually confronted Bullock in front of the rectory. After checking his jail papers and giving Bullock a field sobriety test, the officer determined Bullock was mentally competent to be in public and directed him to a shelter several blocks away.
The security guard, not an employee of the church, again saw Bullock at around 3:30 a.m. and told him to vacate the premises but did not call the police. After he didn’t show up for the morning Mass on Jan. 1, his body was found in the rectory.
According to the Eureka police, a surveillance video showed Bullock outside the rectory.
A funeral Mass was held on Jan. 6 for Freed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Eureka. More than 1,000 filled the church.