Voices and Violence

A court document reveals Bullock's convoluted explanation of the night he killed Eric Freed



In the two-and-a-half years since the New Year's Day murder of St. Bernard Catholic Church pastor Eric Freed, one voice has been notably absent amid the court proceedings and the media coverage: that of Freed's killer, Gary Lee Bullock.

While jurors heard snippets of a few phone conversations Bullock made from jail, the public has received no first-hand explanation of his bizarre and heinous actions that left a beloved local priest dead, a community in mourning and Bullock living the rest of his life in prison. But a pre-sentencing report, compiled by the Humboldt County Probation Department after Bullock was found guilty, was recently unsealed and offers a chilling window into his mind. The report includes summaries and quotes from three interviews Bullock did with psychiatrists the court appointed to determine if Bullock was legally insane at the time of Freed's slaying.

It's hard to know exactly what to make of Bullock's statements to the psychiatrists. What were his motivations? Was he honest with them? Was he trying to deceive them into thinking he was insane in order to avoid prison? No one but Bullock can fully answer these questions, but the report offers the public its first glimpse into what was going through Bullock's mind on New Year's Day of 2014.

"I feel worthless," Bullock told psychiatrist Anna Glazer in July of 2015. "There's nowhere for me to go from here. I want to cry out and do something stupid. Not to get attention. Maybe to punish myself. ... I can't stop going over in my head what I've done and why I did it."

Born Jan. 6, 1970 in Santa Barbara to Donald Bullock and Carol Bruno, who would divorce when Bullock was 4, Bullock was raised in Southern Humboldt County, where his mother worked as a concert promoter and his stepfather was an electrician. Bullock graduated from South Fork High School in 1988 and went on to live in the Southern California town of Temecula.

By the time Bullock relocated to Humboldt County in 2013, his life was spiraling. A marijuana conviction had led to a stint in federal prison in the mid 2000s, and his second career as a truck driver was cut short by a debilitating back injury. He was married with twin daughters, but Bullock's diagnosed bipolar disorder seemed to complicate things. Bullock, who reported having smoked marijuana occasionally throughout adulthood and dabbling with cocaine in his 30s, said he began using methamphetamine in 2013 because he was "bored," and would snort about a gram of the drug daily. This led to a possession arrest in April of that year, and a plea agreement led to a two-week stint in a residential treatment center. After his release, Bullock said he stayed sober for about six months before relapsing in late 2013.

"He reported that upon starting to use methamphetamine he immediately began hearing voices," the report states. "He said he would typically go for two days at a time without sleeping."

Bullock told psychiatrists that he had been "hysterical" for about a week prior to Freed's murder. He was having difficulty sleeping, and had "a sense that the world was coming to an end." On Dec. 30, 2013, he said he snorted methamphetamine all day and into the night. The following day, he did more methamphetamine and he and his wife drank two bottles of wine together. Then, Bullock said, his wife took their children and went to a relative's house, concerned by Bullock's "odd behavior."

"[Bullock] said he was feeling paranoid, and he began looking for his children," the report states. "He believed his wife and children were being murdered."

Bullock accosted a neighbor in his trailer park and accused him of having his wife and kids in his trailer. The altercation became physical, Bullock said. "I made him repent in the name of Jesus," Bullock told one of the psychiatrists. "I thought I was an archangel. Like I had power. It was really weird. This went on until I was arrested by police."

Hours later, Humboldt County sheriff's deputies, after receiving numerous calls regarding Bullock's bizarre behavior, would find him hiding in a bush. He was arrested for public intoxication. En route to the jail, Bullock became combative, kicking the windows of the patrol car and spitting on deputies. He told a psychiatrist that he swallowed his gold wedding band, fearful the cops would take it.

Once at the jail, Bullock told psychiatrists, his paranoia continued. He said he wrapped himself up in his shirt, believing it was "like a cloak of invisibility."

"It was a big stretchy shirt," Bullock explained. "That's how I sat until I left."

Bullock was released onto Fourth Street 43 minutes into the new year, about six hours after his arrest. He told psychiatrists that he "still had psychotic stuff going on" and believed a tidal wave was coming so he needed to get to the top of a tall building. He said he wandered across the church and believed it was a rehabilitation center. He said he was cold, so he began knocking on doors hoping someone would let him in. No one answered, but he found an open door to a restroom off the courtyard.

He decided to go inside to get off the street, but first he used a piece of old metal drainage pipe to draw an "A" on the ground in rust and paint chips. Bullock described it to the psychiatrist as "an angel sign. It was protecting me from evil while I was in the bathroom. I drew it outside to ward away evil spirits."

Asked why he broke into the rectory, Bullock said he was hearing voices telling him to go inside. "I had to go in there and complete something. Help the people. I couldn't leave. When I got out of the bathroom, I was going to leave and then something told me not to leave ... There were little kids in danger and it turned out years before the preacher before molested children ... Kids were being hurt. I thought a friend, who is a girl, was being hurt. ... I ended up going in there." He said he believed there was incinerator inside that was being used to burn bodies.

After breaking in through a window, Bullock said he looked frantically for children being hurt before realizing there were none. He said he was tired and began looking for someplace to sleep, walking through the rectory still believing he was an archangel and carrying a redwood garden stake he'd found outside "as though it were a sword." He told the psychiatrist he wandered into Freed's bedroom but didn't see him asleep in bed. Bullock told psychiatrists that he sat down in a chair and tried to fall asleep but, about after about five minutes, he noticed Freed in bed. Bullock said Freed woke up and yelled at him to leave, and "that's when we got in a wrestling match. ... That's when I suffocated him. I had my arm around his neck. He was in a headlock. I choked him out. But I don't think he died."

Bullock told psychiatrists that he then went downstairs to get water and left Freed lying on the floor. "He said he could not recall details of the following hours, but that at some point he returned to Father Freed," the report states. "He said, 'I went in there and he wouldn't wake up ... I tried to feel his pulse. That freaked me out.'"

According to the report, Bullock then told psychiatrists that he realized he had to leave and went looking for Freed's car keys, finding them by the door. An autopsy on Freed's body showed extensive signs of trauma and torture, with injuries from head to toe. What Bullock told psychiatrists does not account for that, nor does it account in any substantial way for his attempts to burn Freed's body and blow up the rectory.

Once in Freed's car, Bullock said he drove to his mother's house in Redway, which he described as a "place of safety." On the way, he "stopped on a bridge and peed off of it to cleanse himself of evil," according to the report. Once he arrived at his mother's property, Bullock said he felt a sense of "impending doom."

The three psychiatrists ultimately split on whether Bullock was legally insane at the time of the murder. One determined he was, finding that while Bullock had the capacity to make a plan of action and execute it, his psychosis rendered him incapable of determining right from wrong or predicting the natural and probable consequences of his actions. The two others found that Bullock was likely psychotic and suffering symptoms associated with schizophrenia, but one concluded that methamphetamine — not mental illness — was likely the strongest factor in Bullock's actions and the other simply opined that Bullock's mental illness would not have rendered him incapable of determining right from wrong.

Ultimately, the psychiatric evaluations never made it before a jury. In a move that surprised even his attorney, Bullock withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on the morning that the sanity phase of his trial was slated to begin and resigned himself to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

At his sentencing hearing earlier this month, Bullock declined to address the court.

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