Priest Killed in California; Police Launch Investigation

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 02:25 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A priest was killed in California this week, and his body was recovered in his rectory by police, who subsequently launched an investigation.

Rev. Eric Freed, the beloved Catholic priest of Eureka, Calif.’s St. Bernard Church, was first found by staff who contacted the police at approximately 9 a.m. Wednesday. Details as to how the priest was killed were not released by authorities, with Police Chief Andrew Mills telling reporters that his death did not appear to have occurred under "normal circumstances," NBC News reported.

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There are reportedly no suspects as of yet.

Freed was the sole Parish priest at St. Bernard Church.

"He was a really, genuinely warm individual," professor Stephen Cunha, the chairman of Humboldt University's religious studies department, told CNN. "Kind is the word that comes to mind, sensitive."

According to Cunha, Freed was loved by students at the state university where he took part in the school's Catholic student group and had taught for more than 10 years as a guest lecturer.

"This was not some stuffy clergyman," Cunha added. "He was very much someone that you could sit down and speak with. ... He connected with everybody."

"He was very well respected, very well liked and had a tremendous working knowledge as well as academic knowledge," Cunha continued. "To think that he passed in this way: It's just layers of grief and shock."

The announcement of Reed’s death was made by Eureka Mayor Frank Jager, who described Freed as a personal friend and a "tremendous person in this community," CNN noted.

"This is an absolutely tremendous loss not only for the St. Bernard's Parish, but for our community generally," the mayor said. "For those of us who believe in prayer, this is the time for that."

Several days before his death, Freed posted a Christmas message on the church’s website that read: "I cannot tell you how proud and honored I am to be your pastor. Our parish is alive, joyful and full of faith, hope and charity that define us as Catholic Christians."

Freed had been installed as pastor at St. Bernard's parish in 2011 and was reportedly extremely popular, particularly among the community’s Japanese-American residents. He spent many years living in Japan prior to coming to Eureka, according to the mayor.

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