Calif. Priest Was Beaten to Death With Stake, Pipe

Suspect got out of jail just hours before killing

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 7, 2014 3:56 AM CST

(Newser) – Horrific new details in the New Year's Day slaying of a popular Catholic priest in California: An autopsy has revealed that the Rev. Eric Freed was beaten to death with a metal gutter pipe and a wooden stake, the AP reports. He was found dead inside the rectory of his church in Eureka; his suspected killer, 44-year-old Gary Lee Bullock, has been charged with murder with a special allegation of torture.

Bullock, who was also charged with burglary, arson, and auto theft, has pleaded not guilty and bail has been set at $1.2 million. He had been released from a jail near the church on a disorderly conduct charge just hours before the killing. "I don't think we have a clear motive we are willing to speak about at this point," the local police chief says. "There was significant evidence at the scene to suggest he tried to set the house on fire." Hundreds of people have attended vigils for Freed, with many praising his impact on their lives and his efforts to break down barriers between people and faiths, the Eureka Times-Standard reports.

Laura Martinez, center, prays at the interment for Father Eric Freed at the St. Bernard's Cemetery in Eureka, Calif. yesterday.   (AP Photo/Times-Standard, Nick Adams)
The casket of Father Eric Freed is moved after the funeral service at the Sacred Heart Church in Eureka, Calif. yesterday.   (AP Photo/Times-Standard, Nick Adams)
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