Bullock held to answer for murder of Eureka priest, prosecution alleges torture for sadistic purposes
***WARNING: Details of the testimony described below contain graphic descriptions and inappropriate language.***
EUREKA- The man accused of murdering a St. Bernard priest New Year’s Day will be held to answer on all felony charges including two special allegations.
On Tuesday, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Marilyn B. Miles said that there is enough evidence to hold Bullock to answer for felony charges of murder, vehicle theft, and attempted arson. He is also being held to answer on two special allegation charges of residential burglary and torture, for killing Father Eric Freed inside of the rectory on New Year’s Day.
On the third day of Bullock’s preliminary hearing his defense attorney, Kaleb Cockrum resumed with cross-examination of Eureka Police Detective John Gordon, who was assigned to collect evidence from the crime scene. Cockrum questioned Gordon about a small lab vile of Dexomethosome Sodium Phosphate that was found near the broken wooden gate to the south side of the rectory. Gordon testified that he did not know whom it belonged to but the prosecution suggested that it could have come from one of several transients who often camp overnight at the church and at the rectory.
Based on Dr. Mark Super’s autopsy of Freed’s body, he died from blunt force trauma to the head, trauma to the trachea, and suffocation, but clearly stated that it was not strangulation but rather compression from a foreign object that was shoved into Freed’s throat.
The second witness to take the stand was Officer Jon Luken of the Eureka Police Department, who was assigned to recover Freed’s vehicle in southern Humboldt. According to testimony, Bullock drove Freed’s Nissan Altima Hybrid to his mother and stepfather’s home in Redway on New Year’s Day.
Detectives found Freed’s car parked about an eight of a mile down the road from his parent’s home. Detectives said it appeared to be covered with brush and shrub, like someone had intentionally tried to conceal it. On the ground next to the driver’s door Luken said branches formed into the symbol of an “A,” were found, the prosecution suggesting that it was the same design Bullock was seen on surveillance footage creating with soot from a pipe outside of the rectory the night Freed was murdered.
In an interview between Luken and John Bruno, Bullock’s stepfather, Bruno was watching television when he heard his dogs barking outside. When Bruno got up he found Bullock unknowingly inside of his home and said, “What the hell are you doing here?” and “Are you still high?”
It was in Cockrum’s cross-examination when the court learned more about the interactions between Bullock and his stepfather. Bruno described to detectives that Bullock looked “zombie-like,” “high,” “goofy,” and “wacky.”
According to testimony Bullock then went outside, picked up a three-foot long pipe and started swinging it around in his hands and shouted, “Do you know who I am? I am the Archangel Michael” and started rambling biblical statements to his stepfather. Bruno told Luken he then went inside and Bullock disappeared.
A short while later Bruno and his neighbor starting searching around the property for Bullock and found Freed’s vehicle. Between the hours of 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. New Year’s Day Bruno told detectives that Bullock returned back to his home, this time wearing three bungee cords around his arms, two bungee cords around his neck, and a rosary around his neck. Bruno told Alkun that it was at this time when he managed to convince Bullock to come inside and lay down for the night.
On Jan. 2, Bruno told detectives that he received a phone call late in the morning from Bullock’s wife. It is unknown what was said in that phone conversation but Luken said Bruno told Bullock to get into his car, and that he was taking Bullock to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.
Luken said when he searched Bruno’s home he found the same clothing that Bullock was seen wearing in surveillance footage from the church and the rectory, and said his shirt had several reddish-brown stains on it. Inside one of his pockets detectives found mushrooms, but were unable to confirm what kind.
The last witness to take the stand was Chief Investigating Detective Ronald Harpham of the Eureka Police Department. He testified that on the day Bullock was arrested and taken into custody he was wearing different clothes. According to Harpham, Bullock’s hands were swollen, and he had dozens of abrasions and scratches covering his body from his ankles to his head.
In closing arguments Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo said Bullock murdered Freed with malice and beat him until he was dead, and continued beating him even after he was dead. She said the surveillance footage proved that Bullock had entered Freed’s home four different times within the span of four hours on Jan. 1.
Firpo added that the evidence proved Bullock had tortured Freed with “extreme physical infliction of pain for sadistic purposes.” The prosecution alleged Bullock beat Freed’s hands, arms, legs, and feet, until he was no longer able to protect himself. It was at this point when the prosecution alleged Bullock used a metal pipe to pound on Freed’s chest, breaking four ribs and his collarbone, while he was still alive.
After these injuries Firpo said, “Gary beat him [Freed] until he was dead and then abused his body,” and broke his spine post-mortem. The prosecution said after Freed was dead Bullock attempted to set Freed’s body and the rectory on fire.
Judge Miles ordered Bullock to be held on all charges, including the special allegations. Bullock is due back in court on Feb. 5.