Prayer Need: Priest Murdered in Rectory on New Year’s Eve

Fr. Eric Freed (Photo from Humboldt State University Religious Studies Dept.)

Father Eric Freed was a busy guy:  The popular priest was pastor of St. Bernard parish in Eureka, California since 2011; he also taught in the Religious Studies Department at Humboldt State University and served as director of the Newman Center on campus.

But sometime between 6:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve and 9:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Father Eric’s life was cut short by an unknown assailant in the rectory where he lived.

According to reports, when Father Freed didn’t show up for morning Mass, Deacon Frank Weber went to look for him.  The deacon returned to the church, reporting that something was terribly wrong—and the congregation joined in praying a Rosary for Father Freed until the police arrived and asked them to leave.  The entire area surrounding the rectory and the parish have now been cordoned off with yellow tape.

In a press conference this afternoon, Eureka Police Chief Adam Mills confirmed that a murder investigation is underway in the case.  As yet no suspects have been named; however, police now have surveillance video showing a dark grey Nissan Hybrid near the rectory bearing California license plate 6NDW400.  The vehicle may be involved in the crime, and Eureka police have asked anyone with information about the vehicle to contact the Eureka Police Department Communications Center at 707-441-4044.

According to the Times-Standard, the local newspaper in Eureka,

Father Freed lived in Japan for more than 20 years, and participated in Arcata’s annual Lantern Ceremony held in memory of the victims of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He also wrote the story of Hiroshima bombing survivor Hiroko Takanashi as an introduction to 11 haikus she wrote about her experience in the book titled “The Experience of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima in Poem.” During a 2009 interview with the Times-Standard, Freed said he translated the poems to English with the hope it would help others connect with the experiences of the survivors of the bombing.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • How horrible. My prayers for his soul. May he rest in peace.

  • James

    You know, it is a sad story, in addition to prayers, for the sake of dignity of the office of priest, which Fr. Freed held, could you have an appropriate photo of him put up? Thanks for the story anyway.

    • kathyschiffer

      So far, James, that’s the only photo I’ve seen. I’ll watch for one to become available. Thanks for your suggestion.

    • Stacia Daniel

      This is a picture of Father Freed teaching one of his religious studies classes. He was fluent in Japanese and did his seminary there. We, who knew and loved him, love this picture because it shows the happiness and joy with which he radiated. He LOOOOVED teaching as well.
      No, he does not have on his collar. But I can tell he would not have been bothered by that one whit.

  • RoxanneRoxanadana

    This crime never ceases to shock me. How on earth anyone can kill a clergyman is beyond me. I guess it’s sort of the extreme end of meaningless violent death. Also, it’s impossible not to think of the people he served as their priest. Heaven knows what they are going through. My prayers for all.

  • Stella. UK.

    I cannot comprehend the thinking or mentality of anyone who would harm a Priest.He will be in my prayers as will his parishioners and family.May Our Lady Mother of God guide him safely to Heaven.

  • Jimmy Martello

    This is such a tragedy. So senseless, so filled with evil. I have seen such an outpouring of love for Father and his people both here and on other sites, but sadly, so many have taken this opportunity to attack the Church, Holy Orders, and people of faith. I cannot help but ask how long our society will be so intolerant and bigoted against Catholicism that the violent death of a good man would become the occasion of an attack.