Arrest Made in Slaying of California Priest

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 05:20 PM

 

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Authorities say a suspect has been arrested in the killing of a respected priest who was found dead in a church rectory in Northern California.

A statement released by Eureka police says 43-year-old Gary Lee Bullock of Redway was taken into custody on Thursday by Humboldt County deputies in the killing of the Rev. Eric Freed.

Bullock had been name in an arrest warrant. The statement says he had been in and out of police custody in the hours before Freed died.

Officials are still seeking a motive in the killing,

It is not clear exactly when Freed was killed as he was last seen during Tuesday evening Mass and found at 9 a.m. Thursday at St. Bernard Church rectory after he didn't show up for early morning Mass, police said. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

Investigators found signs of forced entry and a struggle.

"The reverend was a victim of a violent crime," Eureka police Chief Andrew Mills said earlier Thursday. "We're not sure on the motive but don't believe it was a robbery at this point."

Freed had taught classes on religion at Humboldt State University since 2007, including "Introduction to Christianity" and a class on Japanese calligraphy. Humboldt State is a small university of 8,000 students near Redwood National Park, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Colleague William Herbrechtsmeier described his friend as a man of keen intellect who had a robust laugh and wide-ranging interests, including sports.

"It's just horrid that someone of his quality would be snuffed out in this way," he said.

Freed grew up in Southern California and graduated from Loyola Marymount University. He completed his graduate studies in linguistics while in Italy, where he also learned how to speak Italian.

Freed also worked on a book related to the bombing of Hiroshima, helping a survivor translate haikus about the experience and providing commentary. When the book was published a few years ago, Humboldt State held a conference on genocide and violence.

Humboldt is a diverse community known for dairy farming, fishing, a declining logging industry and marijuana and methamphetamine production.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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