Police have a suspect in custody in connection with the murder of a popular priest in northern California whose body was found on New Year’s Day with unmistakable signs of “blunt-force trauma,” authorities say.
Gary Lee Bullock, 43, of Redway was arrested by Humboldt County deputies on Thursday, police said in a statement.
The body of Roman Catholic Rev. Eric Freed was found in the rectory of the St. Bernard Church in Eureka, Calif., on Wednesday, but officials say the time of his death won’t be known until an autopsy is performed on Saturday. Police are searching for Freed’s 2010 Nissan hybrid, which went missing at the time of his death.
“The reverend was a victim of a violent crime,” Eureka police Chief Andrew Mills said. “We’re not sure on the motive but don’t believe it was a robbery at this point.”
The Associated Press reports:
“Bullock was initially arrested on Tuesday for public intoxication in Garberville and taken to jail in Eureka, His erratic behavior led police to send him to a hospital for an evaluation.”
“He became agitated and deputies had to restrain him. He was booked into jail for about eight hours then released shortly after midnight.”
“At 2 a.m. Wednesday, Eureka police responded to a call about a suspicious person a couple blocks from the jail and a short distance from the church where Freed was found.”
“Officers referred Bullock to an emergency shelter for the night. Later that evening, a security guard heard noise near the church and went to investigate. He saw a man matching Bullock’s description and, after a short conversation, told him to leave the property, police said.”
“[Freed’s] gruesome death — which the county coroner official ruled a homicide on Thursday — has shaken many in and around Eureka, both members of the parish he served, the nearby university where he taught and the community at large.”
“‘Eric knew as well as anybody just how senseless violence could be,’ said Wiliam Herbrechtsmeier, a professor at Humboldt State University where Freed had taught since 2007. ‘When a fine person like him is brought down — that’s just tragic.'”