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Beloved Calif. priest found murdered in rectory beaten with stake, pipe

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Amanda Enemark lays flowers at an impromptu shrine while Lauire Lynch prays Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, outside St. Bernard Catholic Church rectory in Eureka, Calif., where Fr. Eric Freed was found slain on New Year's Day. Police arrested a man Thursday in the slaying. He was identified as Gary Lee Bullock, 43, of Redway, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard) (The Associated Press)

A beloved priest who was killed in the Northern California city of Eureka was beaten to death with a wooden stake and a metal gutter pipe, his autopsy shows.

Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris said Monday that investigators don't want to release more details of how the Rev. Eric Freed was beaten, pending further investigation.

But at his arraignment, Gary Lee Bullock, 44, of Humboldt County, was charged with murder with a special allegation of torture. He is also charged with burglary, arson and auto theft.

Bullock pleaded not guilty and bail was set at $1.2 million, the Eureka Times-Standard reported.

Meanwhile, a funeral Mass was held Monday for Freed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Eureka. Parishioner Lynn Enemark said more than 1,000 people filled the church to overflowing. Bishop Robert F. Vasa officiated, and priests from around California attended.

Authorities have said Bullock was released from jail on a disorderly conduct charge several hours before Freed was killed in the rectory at St. Bernard Catholic Church. The jail is near the church.

Police Chief Andrew Mills said the attacker got inside by breaking a side window.

The slaying occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, Parris said. A more precise time of death must await further analysis of the evidence.

A passing security guard saw Bullock on church grounds at about 2 a.m. New Year's Day and called police. An officer confronted Bullock in front of the rectory, checked his jail papers, did a field sobriety test, and determined he was mentally competent to be in public, then directed him to a shelter several blocks away, police have said.

The security guard, who does not work for the church, saw Bullock again at about 3:30 a.m. and told him again to be on his way but did not call police again.

Freed's body was discovered when he didn't show up to say Mass the morning of New Year's Day.

Surveillance video showed Bullock outside the rectory, Mills said. Authorities have not made the video public.

Bullock was arrested Thursday by sheriff's deputies outside Garberville. Deputies said his stepfather was driving him to Garberville to turn himself in.

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