Testimony: Bullock spent 2 hours at church before break-in; Freed suffered numerous wounds in attack

Editor's note: This report contains graphic content that some readers may find disturbing.

The Redway man accused of killing a Eureka priest acted erratically on the St. Bernard Catholic Church grounds for two hours before breaking into the rectory at 4 a.m. on New Year's Day and savagely attacking Rev. Eric Freed in his upstairs bedroom, according to testimony and surveillance footage presented Friday during his preliminary hearing.

Gary Lee Bullock, 44, is accused of beating Freed with a metal pipe and a wooden stake in an assault that left the priest with four fractured ribs, a crushed larynx, scalp lacerations, numerous contusions and a fractured skull. An autopsy showed the bottom of Freed's spine was broken sometime after his death, according to testimony.

"Father Freed's body was lying somewhere toward the middle of the room between two recliners," Eureka Police Department Detective John Gordon testified. "There were bloodstains on the carpet and blood stains on the wall."

Bullock was arrested Jan. 2 and has pleaded not guilty to attempted arson, vehicle theft and murder with the special allegations of torture and committing the crime during a residential burglary. He could face the death penalty. Superior Court Judge Marilyn Miles will determine whether Bullock is bound over for trial at the end of the hearing.

District Attorney's Office Investigator Martin Perrone testified he compiled footage taken from several motion-activated cameras at the Eureka church, which shows Bullock approaching the rectory's front door at 1:45 a.m. on Jan. 1. He had been released from the jail a few blocks away one hour earlier, after being arrested in Garberville on Dec. 31 for public intoxication. The last footage shows Freed's car being driven away at 7:01 a.m.

In the footage, Bullock, wearing a baggy, bright blue shirt and ill-fitting pants, is first shown ringing the rectory's front doorbell and standing around, then knocking several times and trying the door, before walking around to a sidewalk that separates the church and rectory. For the next two hours, cameras captured him wandering around the grounds, going to the rectory's back door several times and returning to the front door on various occasions.

The video shows two police officers arriving and escorting him off the property at 2:09 a.m. A short time later, he reappears at a back patio of the church's parish hall and disappears into a bathroom for about 30 minutes before going off screen. Bullock returns carrying a white "L" shaped white pipe that was taken off the rectory's wall, and also gathers a wooden stake similar to others found in a side garden, according to testimony.

A private security guard approaches Bullock at the bathrooms around 3 a.m. The guard appears to be trying to lock the bathroom doors, talks to Bullock, then leaves in a car.

In the footage, Bullock continues to wander around for another hour, and writes something with the debris that came out of the pipe in the patio area.

"It appears to be an upside down 'A' at the door of the restrooms," Perrone testified under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo.

Just before 4 a.m., Bullock goes back down the sidewalk area, and the video appears to show him coming out of the rectory's back door at 4:09 a.m., when he grabs a pipe and runs back inside. Bullock exits the same door at 6:13 a.m., walking slowly with his head down. He goes in and out of the rectory for the next 45 minutes, at one point grabbing onto a bush near the church's back entrance.

The rectory's garage door opens and closes several times before Freed's car is driven away. Freed was found two hours later when he didn't arrive for 9 a.m. Mass.

Gordon testified he was present at Freed's autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Mark Super, which found the priest died from blunt force trauma. Freed's body was covered in cuts and bruises and his hyoid bone, which protects the larynx, was broken in two places.

"He said it was caused definitely by compression, rather than strangulation," Gordon testified.

Super also found Freed's larynx was damaged, and there were lacerations on his tongue and cheeks.

"He said it appeared an object had been shoved in his mouth," Gordon testified, adding that the doctor said the wounds were consistent with a red-stained, cone-shaped glass container found at the scene with a pointed end where the base was broken off.

There were cuts to Freed's scalp that were fairly deep, including one in the shape of a question mark, and his nose had a large gash. There were also abrasions on his cheeks, chin and forehead and his skull was fractured around the area of his nose and eye sockets. He had extensive wounds on his knees.

"From hip to ankle, he had scrapes and bruising that were independent of each other," Gordon said.

Gordon testified that he was also called to the rectory to photograph the scene, and observed a broken window leading to the furnace room on the rectory wall facing the church. He said he noticed rust and paint chip debris on the carpet by the main stairs leading to the second floor, which stood out because the rest of the home was "very tidy, very clean."

He said he also found a broken cell phone near the top of the stairs with its battery missing and the screen damaged. The phone was dented and had debris in it as well, Gordon said.

Testimony in the case is scheduled to continue on Tuesday.