A Catholic priest was discovered dead in his church rectory on New Year's Day when he failed to show up for mass. While the cause of death has not been released, police are calling this a murder case. Father Eric Freed’s lifeless body was found at his Eureka, California church about 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning by a church deacon, according to NBC News on Jan. 1. Police Chief Andrew Mills confirmed that a “violent crime” has taken place.
During a press conference police did not identify the victim, but Eurka’s mayor, Frank Jager, spoke and told the crowd that the body discovered was that of Father Freed saying, “We all know it’s Father Freed.” Jager identified the priest as a close friend of his and he broke out in tears while speaking at the press conference.
Parishioners who attended the 9 a.m. mass Wednesday morning at t St. Bernard's Catholic Church said that Father Freed did not show up for mass. Hank Sims and Winette Treder were at the church with other members waiting for the mass to start. After waiting a while without any sign of the priest, a church deacon went next door to the rectory to see what might be holding him up. He came running back to the church and said “Something is terribly wrong with Father Freed.”
The police and ambulance were called while the church members stayed in the church saying the rosary for the priest. The rectory was taped off as police worked the crime scene most of the day. The street in front of the church was blocked off for church members to gather and pray for Father Freed.
There is very little information released about the murder of the Catholic priest. It is not publicly known how he was killed and there are no suspects in custody. The only information that police have released is that they are actively looking for Father Freed’s dark gray Nissan Altima hybrid.
The church canceled the 7 p.m. mass for Wednesday and Freed was remembered on the website in a new posting.