EUREKA (CBS SF / AP) — Police have arrested 43-year-old Gary Lee Bullock of Redway, suspected in the killing of priest and professor Rev. Eric Freed, whose body was discovered in the rectory of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Eureka on New Year’s Day.
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said,”There’s no question in our mind he’s responsible for this heinous act.” The chief told CNN, “The public can take a deep breath.”
Evidence at the priest’s home on the church property and eyewitness accounts of seeing Bullock around the suspected time of the crime are part of the case. Mills would not elaborate further, saying the interview with the suspect will be the next step in determining the motive. Mills added that it appears to be a crime of opportunity, but what that opportunity was is unclear.
An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.
The body of the Freed was discovered by a deacon after Freed failed to show up for morning mass, Eureka Mayor Frank Jager said.
Jager said Freed was a close friend and a well-liked member of the community.
“He’s one of those wonderful people you meet from time to time that you’d like to clone,” Jager said. “He was very friendly and just a wonderful educator.”
Freed had taught classes on religion at Humboldt State University since 2007, including “Introduction to Christianity” and a class on Japanese calligraphy.
“It’s just horrid that someone of his quality would be snuffed out in this way,” his colleague William Herbrechtsmeier said. “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.”
Herbrechtsmeier described his friend as a man of keen intellect who had a robust laugh and wide-ranging interests, including sports.
Humboldt State is a small university of 8,000 students near Redwood National Park and on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
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 fluently.
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 of dairy farming, fishing and a declining logging industry also known for its marijuana and methamphetamine production.
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