Bullock prelim set for today: Redway man accused of killing Eureka priest

The preliminary hearing for a Redway man accused of killing a popular Eureka priest is set to begin today.

Attorneys said in court Wednesday that the hearing to determine whether Gary Lee Bullock faces trial for the death of Rev. Eric Freed is expected to take two days. Bullock has pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicle theft, arson and murder with special allegations of torture and committing the crime during the course of a first-degree residential burglary.

Bullock, 44, could face the death penalty. He is being held without bail.

After Wednesday's intervention hearing, which was closed to the public, Judge John T. Feeney said the preliminary hearing would be set for this morning, and would at least initially be called in the same courtroom.

Bullock, an unemployed professional truck driver, is accused of attacking Freed with a metal pipe and wooden stake after breaking into the St. Bernard Catholic Church rectory on New Year's Day. Freed was found by parishioners when he did not arrive for a 9 a.m. Mass.

Bullock had been released from the Humboldt County jail at 12:43 a.m. on Jan. 1 after being arrested for public intoxication in Garberville on Dec. 31. He was contacted twice on church grounds in the early morning hours -- once by a Eureka Police Department officer and later by a private security guard.

Defense attorney Kaleb Cockrum declined to waive his client's right to have a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his arraignment, which moves the process along at a faster pace than is often seen in major felony cases.

Attorneys from the county and the city also asked the court for clarification on a gag order -- which essentially prevents court staff, attorneys, sheriff's office personnel and Eureka Police Department personnel from discussing or commenting publicly on the case -- that was issued last week by another judge.

Cockrum asked that the order include documents and other records that are "specifically about Mr. Bullock or the crime he is alleged to have committed," which he argued fall under exceptions to the California Public Records Act.

Feeney expressed reservations about extending the order as written to include documents, and asked Cockrum to file a proposed amended order and a brief outlining his argument with legal citations. The previous order remains in effect in the meantime.