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Suspect arrested in Eureka priest murder

By Kelli Saam
Nate Hauser
Published On: Jan 02 2014 01:26:04 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 02 2014 06:03:42 PM CST

Gary Lee Bullock

EUREKA, Calif. -

Humboldt County Sheriff's deputies arrested 43-year-old Gary Lee Bullock in connection with the murder of Father Eric Freed Thursday.

Bullock was found in the Briceland area of southern Humboldt County around 12:45 p.m. after Eureka Police Department made contact with his family who persuaded Bullock to voluntarily surrender to deputies.

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said family members arranged for Bullock to surrender near a family residence in rural Humboldt County.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, deputies were already searching the area as Bullock's last known address was in Redway which is about six miles from Briceland.

A grey Nissan Altima that had belonged to the victim was also located in Southern Humboldt. The vehicle has been secured by the Sheriff's Office and Eureka Police are en route to impound the vehicle.

The manhunt started after Freed, 56, was found dead in the church rectory Wednesday on New Year's morning at St. Bernard Church in Eureka.  His body was discovered after he failed to show up for morning Mass.

Police said the investigation revealed that forced entry had been made into the parsonage and a violent struggle ensued leading to the priest's death. 

Eureka Police described the hours leading up the the priest's death.  They said on New Year's Eve someone reported Bullock acting strangely in the Garberville area in Southern Humboldt County.  Deputies located and arrested Bullock for public intoxication.  He was taken to jail where he was rejected due to his erratic behavior. 

Bullock was then taken to the hospital for evaluation where he became more agitated and had to be physically restrained by deputies.  Bullock was booked into jail at 4:34 p.m.

Bullock was released early on New Year's Day at 12:43 a.m.  At approximately 2 a.m. officers from the Eureka Police Department were dispatched to 615 H Street, regarding a suspicious person.  Officers contacted Bullock and found he was not intoxicated, and did not quality for an emergency psychological hold.  Officers referred Bullock to an emergency shelter for the night.

Later that morning a security guard heard noise in the area of St. Bernard Church and went to investigate.  He saw a person matching Bullock's description and directed him to leave the property after a short conversation.

At approximately 9 a.m. police officers were dispatched to the church rectory where  parishioners found Father Eric Freed badly injured.  Officers and a doctor, who is a parishioner, determined Freed was deceased.  The exact cause of death has yet to be determined and an autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.  It appears that there was blunt force trauma to the victim.