Gary Lee BullockWarning: The following story contains graphic descriptions of a violent crime scene and the subsequent autopsy.

On the second day of testimony in the preliminary case against Gary Lee Bullock, the courtroom saw security camera footage of the suspect and heard graphic descriptions of the battered body of Father Eric Freed, the beloved priest of Eureka’s St. Bernard’s Catholic Church.

Freed was found dead inside the church rectory on New Year’s Day, and Bullock has been charged with vehicle theft, arson and murder, with special allegations of torture and committing the murder in the act of a residential burglary.

The torture component of those charges was brought to vivid life this morning during the testimony of Eureka Police Detective John Gordon, who was dispatched to the scene on Jan. 1 as an evidence technician. Gordon described extensive brutal injuries found on Freed’s body at the scene and during a subsequent autopsy. The injuries included numerous abrasions and deep bruising on Freed’s hands, arms and legs, with “extensive wounds” on both knees, a fractured skull, broken ribs and a broken spine.

Looking at evidence photos taken during the autopsy, Gordon also described a piece of wood between Freed’s legs. It was roughly nine inches long and consistent with the landscaping wood found on-site, Gordon testified.

The bruises and abrasions on Freed’s legs extended from the hips to the ankles, he said, and the arms were similarly battered. Gordon described three circular chest wounds that appeared in a straight line from Freed’s sternum to the base of the ribcage. The wounds were roughly the same diameter as a metal pipe found on the scene, he said.

Freed also had bruising on his back and appeared to have been beaten about the face and head, according to Gordon’s testimony. Freed had a gash down the length of his nose and abrasions on his chin, both cheeks and forehead, he said. The doctor performing the autopsy, Mark Super, also found lacerations on all sides of Freed’s head, including a deep cut in the top of his scalp shaped like a question mark, Gordon testified.

Freed had at least four broken ribs, a skull fracture that ran from the front of his face to the backs of his eye sockets and a cracked collarbone, all of which were surrounded by blood, suggesting that the injuries happened before Freed died, Gordon said. Freed’s lower spine was also broken, but that appeared to happen post-mortem, according to the testimony.

The injuries found inside Freed’s mouth provide “a good explanation of the cause of death,” were likely caused by a broken glass vase, according to Gordon’s recollection of Dr. Super’s analysis. The larynx and throat were purplish with bruising and the hyoid bone, located at the back of the throat, had been broken in two spots prior to death, Gordon testified.

At this point, Deputy DA Firpo brought out a piece of evidence wrapped in a brown evidence bag. Inside was a glass vase, rose-tinted and cone shaped. It was part of a matching set of vases, Gordon said, and it matched a broken piece of glass found on the scene, half covered in red stains. This jagged-edged piece, which was suggested as the ultimate murder weapon, looked identical to the vase in the courtroom except that the round base had been broken off at the narrow end of the stem, Gordon said. He said that the doctor’s opinion was that the injuries inside Freed’s mouth, including a lacerated tongue, the broken hyoid bone and choking-type bruises in his throat, could have been caused by the broken vase.

Earlier in the day, the courtroom watched footage of Bullock wandering outside the rectory on the night of the crime. District Attorney Investigator Martin Perrone, who was assigned as the computer forensics examiner, screened an edited video compilation of security camera footage showing Bullock on the church property the night of the crime, knocking on the front and back doors, wandering extensively and hauling around a large metal pipe and wooden stake. 

The footage had been captured by numerous cameras located on the church property and edited by Perrone into chronological order. Since the cameras are motion-activated, the footage included gaps when Bullock was off camera. The footage was projected onto a large screen, and as it played Bullock watched himself, shifted in his chair and occasionally scribbled notes onto a yellow legal pad.

The footage began with a grainy black-and-white shot of the front steps to the rectory, time-stamped at 1:45:02 a.m. [Reminder: Bullock had been released from the county jail about an hour earlier.] Bullock appears, wearing a loose-necked, long-sleeve blue shirt, and the image pops into color. He rings the doorbell and stands facing the door, hands clasped calmly in front of himself. Then he tries the doorknob, waits another 10 or 15 seconds and then pounds on the door with the heel of his hand. He wipes his nose, tugs up the waist of his blue jeans pants and stands a bit longer. He then pounds the door a few more times and finally gives up, turning around and descending the steps.

From there he walks around to the back of the rectory, disappearing briefly behind a bush and then raising his arms in what could be a stretch and yawn or perhaps a howl. Then he runs off camera.

For the next 20 minutes or so, Bullock mills around the building, ringing the back doorbell and then the front, shuffling around calmly as the camera catches him from various angles. At one point, he climbs up the front stairs and removes his shoes, then goes back to knocking on the door, waiting with his hands in his pockets and then knocking again.

At 2:09:09 a.m., a flashlight beam catches Bullock in the corridor between the chapel and the rectory. On the witness stand, Perrone attempted to identify the name of the security company the man worked for, but defense attorney Kaleb Cockrum objected. At 2:09:27, two uniformed men escort Bullock off camera toward H Street.

Eight minutes later, he’s back, appearing on a camera pointed toward the property’s garage. At 2:18:41, Bullock walks into a patio area and disappears into a bathroom, which stops the motion-activated camera footage. He emerges more than half an hour later and resumes his shuffling around the property. After a few minutes he makes his way back to the front of the rectory, walks out of frame and then re-emerges at 2:56:29, after a two-minute gap, holding a metal pipe at his side. It’s roughly eight feet long, with an elbow joint in the middle, bent at about 45 degrees. The pipe, which Perrone’s testimony suggests was taken from exterior plumbing lines on the rectory’s south wall, is painted white and dribbling rust and debris.

Bullock takes the pipe to the back patio and proceeds to shake it methodically, dribbling rusty, sooty debris onto the concrete. He then walks to a nearby planting area and, after a minute or two, comes back holding a wooden stake roughly five feet long and two inches wide. Perrone said it was the kind of stake used to prop up vegetation in a garden.

Bullock uses the stake’s long edge to push the debris he’s collected into neat, straight lines.

While involved in this mysterious activity, Bullock is encountered a second time by a man in uniform. This man, who was also not identified but appears to be wearing a badge, sees Bullock in the patio area with his stick. The large white pipe is leaned on the wall behind Bullock. The uniformed man makes an arms-out gesture, as if saying, “C’mon, man, what are you doing?” He appears to say something to Bullock, then checks the bathroom door, turns around and leaves.

At this point, Firpo asked Perrone what shape Bullock had made with the debris on the concrete. It was a capital letter A, Perrone said, right in front of the women’s restroom.

With the uniformed man gone, Bullock hauls the pipe and stick into the bathroom. He emerges with the pipe and stick at 3:51:58 a.m., having been inside for about 48 minutes. He then drops the pipe and carries the stick to the back door of the rectory, and then wanders into a dark corridor between the church and the rectory. It’s now 3:54:58. Perrone said that, at this point, it appears the Bullock broke into the rectory through a side window.

Back in the courtroom, Bullock ripped a sheet from his legal pad. It was covered in his handwriting.

Back to the video footage: Shortly after 4:09 a.m., Bullock emerges from the back door of the rectory and runs to the patio where he retrieves the metal pipe and jogs back inside. He doesn’t reappear for more than two hours.

When he does come out of the back door, it’s 6:13:56 a.m. He shuffles slowly to the patio bathroom and, after a few seconds, shuffles back to the rectory, shoulders hunched and head down as he goes back inside.

The last few minutes of the video show Bullock emerging from the rectory again, at 6:43:31 a.m. and then tugging and rubbing on a nearby bush. The bush was collected as evidence, Perrone said. Bullock goes back inside one last time at 6:47 a.m. and apparently uses a remote garage door opener to raise the door on the garage in the back of the rectory. Bullock emerges from the rectory one final time, walks slowly to the garage and climbs inside the car. The car appears to idle for several minutes before Bullock puts it in reverse, executes a three-point turn and drives away.

The day’s testimony ended shortly before noon. Cockrum said he will cross-examine Gordon when the hearing resumes Tuesday morning.

Note: This post has been edited from an earlier version to correct testimony about the glass vase.