Mad River Union
EUREKA – The across-the-board guilty verdicts in the Gary Lee Bullock murder case clear the boards for the second phase of the convict’s trial, the separate insanity determination.
The 10-woman, two-man jury is scheduled to return to Humboldt County Superior Court Friday, April 15, to begin receiving testimony from at least three expert witnesses, including court-appointed psychiatrists.
Bullock, 46, of Redway, convicted of the high profile blunt force slaying of Father Eric Freed, 56, in the St. Bernard’s Parish rectory in Eureka on Jan. 1, 2014, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Such pleas are entered rarely, according to national statistics, and are rarely successful.
The jury’s uniform verdicts April 11 on seven felony charges vindicated the state’s case that Bullock acted “willfully, deliberately and with premeditation” – i.e., he was rational and calculating when he slew the defenseless Freed.
In addition to first degree murder, the jury held Bullock guilty of torture (he rammed a broken beer glass down his victim’s throat); attempted arson of an inhabited dwelling; first degree residential burglary; unlawful taking of a vehicle (Freed’s car) and carjacking.
The merciless brutality of the murder – Freed was beaten and bludgeoned with an iron pipe and a wood garden stake, inflicting dozens of wounds – captured international headlines.
The jury heard a recording of Bullock in his first post-arrest interview with District Attorney investigator John Burke on Jan. 2, 2014, in which he vigorously denied any involvement in Freed’s savage death.
“Why the fuck would I go murder someone?” he cried in indignation. “I didn’t fuckin’ murder anybody! I’m tellin’ you the fuckin’ truth!”
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Isaac argued that Bullock’s two failed arson attempts – one to burn Freed’s body, the second to blow-up the entire rectory with a gas explosion – demonstrated he was in his right mind, exercising reasoned forethought with his concerted efforts to cover up his crimes.
Likewise, Isaac said, Bullock sought to conceal the priest’s personal effects, throwing them off a bridge on his escape back to Redway after the murder. He also tried to hide Freed’s car on his stepfather’s 80-acre property near there.
Bullock’s lawyer, Kaleb Cockrum, sought to persuade the jury that the killing resulted from a psychotic episode. Phase two of the case, likely to stretch into next week, will enable the jury to weigh that claim in depth.