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.
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.