Autopsy: slain priest was beaten with wooden stake and pipe

EUREKA, Calif. - An autopsy has revealed a Eureka priest murdered New Year's day was beaten to death with a wooden stake and a metal gutter pipe.  A Humboldt County coroner said investigators don't want to release more details of how the Rev. Eric Freed was beaten, pending further investigation.

The body of 56-year-old Father Freed was found in the rectory of St. Bernard's parish when he failed to show up for New Year's Mass.  The rectory is the area of the church property where a priest lives.

The murder suspect, Gary Bullock made his first court appearance Monday, which happened to be his 44th birthday.  Bullock pleaded not guilty to charges of  burglary, arson and murder with a special allegation of torture.  Police said Bullock was seen on surveillance video near the church and rectory in the early morning hours of January 1.  He allegedly broke into the rectory through a side window.  Investigators say there is evidence he tried to set the building on fire.

Bullock had been arrested for public intoxication earlier on New Year's Eve, but was released hours before the killing.

More than a thousand people gathered Monday for Father Freed's funeral at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Eureka.  Freed was then buried at St. Bernard's Cemetery, the parish where he served for about three years.  Several priests from around the state attended the funeral and paid their respects.

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