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Police: Suspect in Eureka priest's killing tried to blow up church rectory

  • Gary Lee Bullock, 44, of Redway, sits in Humboldt County Superior Court in Eureka on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, during his arraignment on murder and other charges in the slaying of Rev. Eric Freed in the rectory of St. Bernard Catholic Church. Bullock pleaded not guilty and was held on $1.2 million bail. (AP Photo/Times-Standard / José Quezada)

A man charged with murder in the death of a California priest in a church rectory beat him with a wooden stake and rusty metal pipe then made two unsuccessful attempts to set the body and building on fire, police said in a court document obtained Wednesday.

Suspect Gary Lee Bullock rolled up the body of the Rev. Eric Freed in blankets and doused them with liquor before he tried to set them on fire, according to the police affidavit obtained by The Associated Press.

It said Bullock then tried to blow up the rectory of St. Bernard Catholic Church in Eureka by turning on the gas stove and leaving behind a lit cigar that went out before a blaze began.

Priest Slain in Eureka

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"It could have been a lot worse," said Eureka police Chief Andrew Mills.

The affidavit signed by Eureka police Det. Ron Harpham was filed in Humboldt County Circuit Court in support of an arrest warrant issued last week for Bullock, 44, of Redway. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder with a special allegation of torture, arson and other crimes.

The affidavit said church surveillance video captured images of Bullock trying to open doors to the rectory, breaking a side window and crawling in. Bullock was carrying the same wooden stake and rusty white-painted metal pipe found inside that police believe were used to beat Freed, the document states.

"There was a large amount of blood about his upper body, his legs were badly beaten and his nose appeared to be misshapen," the affidavit said. "The suspect rolled the father into blankets, poured several bottles of 80 proof alcohol over the father and attempted to light the bedding on fire. A fire did light, but then extinguished itself."

In general, liquor has to be 100 proof or stronger to burn well.

"The suspect also lit a cigar, placed it on the gas stove, and opened up the burners so natural gas flooded the building," the affidavit added. "The cigar extinguished itself foiling the attempt to destroy the building by blast and fire."

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