Police arrest suspect in California priest killing

Gary Lee Bullock
Eureka Police Dept.

Updated January 2, 2014 4:45 PM EST

EUREKA, Calif. - The suspect in the killing of a respected priest and educator who was found dead Wednesday in a church rectory in Northern California was taken into custody Thursday afternoon, Eureka police said.

Gary Lee Bullock was taken into custody in the Garberville area by sheriff’s deputies.

Authorities announced earlier Thursday that Bullock, 43, of Redway, was being sought in the killing of the Rev. Eric Freed.

Freed was found dead around 9 a.m. Thursday in the St. Bernard Church rectory by a deacon. Authorities said he sustained blunt force trauma. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.

Investigators found signs of forced entry and a struggle.

Police were searching for Freed's missing 2010 Nissan hybrid.

Officials are still investigating a motive in the killing, but Bullock had been in and out of police custody in the hours leading up to when Freed's body was found.

Bullock was first arrested Wednesday night by Humboldt County deputies for public intoxication in Garberville and taken 67 miles north to jail in Eureka, where he was "rejected due to his erratic behavior." Bullock was then taken to a hospital for an evaluation and became so agitated that deputies had to restrain him. He was booked into jail for about eight hours, then released shortly after midnight.

At 2 a.m. Thursday, Eureka Police responded to a call about a suspicious person a couple blocks from the jail — and a stone's throw from Freed's church — where officers found Bullock. Officers referred 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 Bullock's description and, after a short conversation, told him to leave the property, police said.

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.