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Enhancements added to murder charge in Eureka priest's killing

  • Gary Lee Bullock is led by law enforcement officers into a car in Eureka, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. A suspect was arrested Thursday in the killing of a respected priest and educator who was found dead in a church rectory in California. Bullock, 43, was taken into custody by deputies in the killing of the Rev. Eric Freed, according to a statement released by Eureka police. (AP Photo/The Times Standard, Nick Adams)

The man accused of torturing and killing a popular Eureka priest will stand trial for murder with special enhancements of torture and arson, a Humboldt County judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision comes after a preliminary hearing that lasted three days. It included vivid testimony about what police and sheriff's officers described as suspect Gary Lee Bullock's bizzare, erratic behavior the day of the murder and the violent way the priest, the Rev. Eric Freed, was killed, according to local news sources covering the hearing.

Freed, who previously served as a priest and chaplain in Sonoma County, was found dead in the rectory where he lived at around 9 a.m. on New Year's Day, according to Eureka police. Bullock, who had been arrested less than a day earlier on suspicion of being under the influence and disorderly contact, was identified as a suspect and arrested Jan. 2 when family members surrendered him. Extensive video surveillance from the church shows Bullock wandering around the church early in the morning on Jan. 1 and eventually breaking in through a window, carrying with him a metal pipe and wooden stake believed to be the weapons used to kill Freed, police said.

The priest's car was found hidden in bushes not far from Bullock's mother and stepfather's home, where he went later in the morning on Jan. 1, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's office.

Bullock is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 5, said Elan Firpo, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.

You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or jamie.hansen@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter at @JamieHansen.

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