Bullock caught on surveillance footage, witnesses describe Father Freed's injuries
***WARNING: Details of the crime scene described below contain graphic descriptions.***
EUREKA- Day two of the preliminary hearing was held Friday morning for the man accused of murdering St. Bernard priest, Father Eric Freed, on New Year’s Day. Gary Bullock, 44 of Redway is being charged with three felony counts, one count murder, vehicle theft, and attempted arson. He is also facing two special allegation charges of torture and residential burglary.
In court Friday, District Attorney investigator Martin Perrone, who was assigned as the computer forensic examiner said he was in charge of obtaining surveillance footage from the church and the rectory, next door. He said, “The church has up to sixteen different cameras,” but only a handful of those caught footage of suspect Gary Bullock roaming around the church. Perrone explained the cameras were motion-activated, with a five second delay and edited into chronological order from midnight Dec. 31 to 7:30 a.m. Jan.1.
The footage first shows Gary Bullock arriving at the front door to Freed’s home at 615 H Street around 1:45 a.m. on New Year’s Day, about an hour after he was released from the Humboldt County Jail. Bullock was wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt, black pants, and tried ringing the doorbell and knocking several times on the door, and at one point trying to open the door.
Bullock is seen leaving the front door and walking to the side of the rectory, where another surveillance camera captures him raising his arms in the air, moving them up and down. Bullock is then seen ringing the doorbell next to the back door of the rectory, pauses, and then goes back to the front door. About 20 minutes later Bullock takes off his shoes, and walks barefoot, again knocking on Freed’s front door.
Around 2:15 a.m. Bullock is approached by two people wearing uniform and escorted off of the property, but three minutes later appears on a surveillance camera in front of the outside restrooms of the parish hall. He goes into the restroom around 2:18 a.m. and re-emerges about a half hour later at 2:51 a.m. He is then seen roaming around the area and captured again in front of Freed’s front door, walks out of the frame, and appears again just moments later holding what Perrone described as a metal pipe, suggesting that it was broken off from exterior plumbing lines to the rectory.
At 2:56 a.m. Bullock is seen holding the long, eight foot pipe as described by Perrone, in front of the restrooms. He shakes the pipe vigorously, forcing soot and debris to fall from the pipe onto the concrete and begins to create a design. Moments later he walks away to a planting area in front of the restrooms and grabs a five foot tall wooden stake, the kind of stake used to prop vegetation, said Perrone.
A car is then seen pulling into the back parking lot and a man in a uniform approaches Bullock, with both the pipe and wooden stake leaned up against the wall behind Bullock. The man checks the doors to the restrooms and has a confrontation with Bullock, and drives away. Perrone testified that the design Bullock was creating on the concrete was a capital upside-down A to the doorway of the restroom.
Almost 50 minutes later, around 3:54 a.m. Bullock is seen carrying the wooden stake to a window on the side of the rectory, when Perrone said it appeared Bullock had broken through the glass window and crawled inside.
Over two hours later, at 6:13 a.m. Bullock is seen on the surveillance footage exiting Freed’s back door and walking back to the restroom, then again back into the rectory at 6:14 a.m. About a half hour later at 6:43 a.m. Bullock exits out of the same back door, wanders, and is back in the rectory at 6:47 a.m. It was at this point when the garage door opened, and where Freed’s car was parked. Bullock is seen climbing into the driver’s seat and driving away just before 7 a.m.
In the courtroom Bullock remained silent, scribbling on his notepad, glancing at the footage, and often letting out loud sighs. After Perrone’s testimony, a second witness was called to the stand, Eureka Police Detective John Gordon who was assigned as the evidence technician on the case.
Gordon first described the exterior of the building when he investigated it. He said it appeared that plumbing from the rectory had been dislodged, saying a “large section of pipe was missing.”
He then described the injuries to Freed’s body after having conducted an autopsy with Dr. Mark Super. He said Freed suffered roughly four broken ribs, a fractured collarbone, a broken lower spine, and several bruises and abrasions to both of his hands and legs, including scratches from the hips to the ankles. Gordon said three circular wounds were discovered on Freed’s chest that extended from his chest to the bottom of his sternum. He suggested the wounds were the same diameter and color as the metal pipe found at the scene, “rust colored metal and paint flakes that matched outside exterior of the building.”
While looking at evidence photos, Gordon said on Freed’s face there was a large gash running the length of his nose, and that he had numerous chin and forehead abrasions. Dr. Mark Super, who performed the autopsy, said he found lacerations to the top and sides of Freed’s head, and a deep cut toward the back of his head shaped like a question mark, almost cut to the skull.
Gordon stated that the injuries found inside of Freed’s mouth included a cut on his tongue, and from his recollection of Dr. Super’s report, said Freed’s larynx was injured and his hyoid bone broken in two spots, likely caused by compression, or choking.
The prosecution then brought out a brown bag in the courtroom, with a vase inside that was collected into evidence by Gordon. The glass cone-shaped vase was part of a matching set found in Freed’s home, according to Gordon. He said the glass matched the same conical glass object found broken, and with a jagged-base inside of the rectory. Gordon said based on Dr. Super’s opinion that the broken vase was shoved into Freed’s mouth and ultimately crushed his larynx.
Bullock remains on no bail at the Humboldt County Jail and faced the death penalty. The preliminary hearing will continue next Tuesday morning when the defense will cross-examine.