Prosecutor Andrew Isaac this morning led a series of witnesses through descriptions of evidence collected in the aftermath of the Jan. 1, 2014, murder of Father Eric Freed, from Eureka’s St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. Suspect Gary Lee Bullock has been charged that murder, along with allegations of torture, carjacking, burglary and attempted arson of an inhabited building. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Eureka Police Detective John Luken was first to take the stand in today’s evidentiary hearing. He described photos of Father Freed’s stolen car, found on Jan. 2, 2014, covered in branches at the Southern Humboldt County home of John and Carol Bruno, Bullock’s mother and step-father.
Luken also testified about clothing found at the Bruno property — a blue thermal shirt and black sweatpants that appear to match what Bullock was seen wearing in security camera footage captured at the St. Bernard’s property on the night of the murder. Those clothing items were revealed in court today, as Luken cut open brown paper evidence bags and removed the items with latex gloves.
The shirt had stains, described in court as “discoloration,” and portions of the material had been cut out and sent to the crime lab for analysis.
Later in the morning, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jesse Taylor told the court how he’d been called to investigate items found beneath the Miranda Bridge along Avenue of the Giants. Residents of the area had found the items submerged near the banks of the South Fork Eel River. Taylor described them as paperwork, a card that said “Father Eric Freed” and, several yards away, a briefcase, a box and an “apparent Bible.”
Kay Belschner, a senior criminalist with the California Department of Justice in Eureka, testified that she examined and tested the physical evidence sent in by the Eureka Police Department. And in the most graphic evidence presented thus far, Belschner was shown a photo of the crime scene, including the bloody body of the late priest, lying face-up on the blood-stained carpet of the church rectory.
Also in the image was a broken glass “vessel,” which appeared to match descriptions of a vase allegedly used in the torture of Freed. Swabs from the glass vessel were sent in for testing. Other evidence collected at the scene included a cigar from the rectory kitchen, fingernail clippings and a penile swab from Freed.
After these witnesses testified, Judge John T. Feeney resumed the process of winnowing down the jury pool by reviewing prospective jurors’ hardship questionnaires. The trial is scheduled to resume this afternoon and continue through mid-April.
- Bullock Pleads Not Guilty in Priest Slaying Case
- Bullock Appears in Court, Kathleen Bryson Retained by Family of Father Freed
- Bullock Attorney Submits Resumes of Potential Expert Witnesses
- Court Adds Carjacking Charge to Bullock Murder Case, Appoints Expert Witnesses
- Judge Orders Psychiatric Evaluation of Bullock, Predicts Early October Trial Date for Priest Murder Case
- Bullock Trial for Murder of Father Freed Postponed Until February
- Jury Selection Begins in Trial of Gary Lee Bullock, Accused of Murdering Catholic Priest
- In Recorded Phone Call, Bullock Pleaded With His Grandma to Put Her House Up for His Bail