UK & World News

  • 3 January 2014, 10:53

Gary Bullock Held Over Rev Eric Freed Death

Police in California have arrested a suspect over the killing of a respected Roman Catholic priest found dead in his church rectory.

Gary Lee Bullock, 43, was held over the death of Rev Eric Freed, whose body was discovered on Wednesday after he failed to show up for New Year's Day morning mass at St Bernard Church.

Mr Bullock had been in and out of custody in the hours before the priest was killed, Eureka Police said in a statement.

Detectives found signs of forced entry and a struggle in the rectory, and police say Rev Freed "sustained blunt force trauma".

Mr Bullock was initially arrested on Tuesday for public intoxication in Garberville and taken to jail in Eureka.

His erratic behaviour 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 2am on Wednesday, Eureka Police responded to a call about a suspicious person a couple of blocks from the jail and a short distance from the church where Freed was found.

Officers referred Mr 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 Mr Bullock's description and, after a short conversation, told him to leave the property, police said.

It is not clear exactly when Rev Freed was killed. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

Frank Jager, the mayor of Eureka, the largest city on the northern California coast, said Rev Freed was a close friend and a well-liked member of the community.

Mr Jager said: "He's one of those wonderful people you meet from time to time that you'd like to clone.

"He was very friendly and just a wonderful educator."

Rev Freed had been with the church in Eureka since 2011. He also taught religious studies at Humboldt State University.

His colleague William Herbrechtsmeier said: "It's just horrid that someone of his quality would be snuffed out in this way.

"What makes this a story is not the act of violence, because that happens every day, but the kind of person that it happened to."

According to the Times-Standard, he lived in Japan for more than 20 years.

He translated work by Hiroko Takanashi, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

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