Police authorities have arrested a suspect whom they believe murdered a Roman Catholic priest in a Northern California church rectory, spokespersons for the California state police have stated.
The alleged killer, Gary Bullock, was arrested on Thursday in Humboldt County near Garberville, California, explained said Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills.
Mills added that there was no question in his police department’s investigative unit that the suspect was responsible for the heinous act. He cited evidence that was found at the crime scene and also interviews that were conducted with eyewitnesses which allegedly linked Bullock to the death of Rev. Eric Freed.
Just a few hours earlier, Police Chief Mills had announced that an arrest warrant had been put out for the suspect and the public was asked for help in tracking the alleged killer down along with a 2010 Nissan hybrid which had belonged to the murdered priest.
Rev. Freed’s body was discovered inside the rectory of the St. Bernard Church of Eureka. He had suffered blunt force trauma to his entire body.
The grisly death was ruled a homicide and a full autopsy was scheduled to be performed on Saturday.
The murder has upset many that lived in and around the California northern coast region city whether they were followers of the parish where Freed was located at, a part of the university where he was an instructor, or just from the community.
Rev. Freed knew as well as anyone just how senseless violence was, stated one of the professors at Humboldt State University. Freed was a professor there.
Mills stated that police did not yet have any sort of motive for the killing, but they were guessing it was probably a crime of opportunity.
Why is the main thing that we want to find out, so to help bring some sort of ease and comfort to this area, but right now, it is good that this particular incident is over. We have the suspect in custody and the public is able to breathe again.
One of the St. Bernard parishioner stated he was angry and very shocked over Freed’s death, stating that he felt it was hard to feel like a Christian because the murder was so brutal.
Rev. Freed was described as a very accessible and loving man. The church has lost not only a pastor but also a friend and a father figure
Bullock was known to the local police. In fact, he had been in their custody just that same day that Freed was discovered murdered.
After he was released from the jail, a guard at Freed’s church discovered someone who matched Bullock’s description on the church grounds and he was ordered to leave, police authorities stated.
It was about 9 a.m. that police investigators were called again to St. Bernard. It was now that church staff had found Freed’s body. Police Chief Mills explained that the officers on scene determined there were signs of forced entry and that a struggle had occurred.
As the hours passed, mourning church members and leaders of the community began to gather outside the church, which was now considered a crime scene, to remember the murdered priest.
It had been just a couple days before, which the priest had sent notes to his parishioners, thanking all of them for their support and prayers and wishing all of them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
He had told them how proud and honored he was to be their pastor, and stated that their parish was alive, joyful and full of hope, faith and charity.
Rev. Freed was well respected and liked. He also had a fabulous working knowledge as well as academic understanding, stated the college professor. It is so hard to believe he passed in this horrible way.
Students at the state university were noted as loving Rev. Freed dearly as well, and they are also mourning his death. One student stated that he was not an old stuffy clergyman. He was a person that anyone was able to sit down and talk to. He will be sorely missed.
The murdered Roman Catholic priest’s killer has been arrested, spokespersons for the California state police have stated.
By Kimberly Ruble
The Washington Post