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California priest found dead in church rectory, as police suspect murder

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2014

Eureka, Calif., police launched a murder investigation after finding the dead body of a popular priest inside a Roman Catholic church rectory.

CNN reported that officers responded to a call from St. Bernard Church staff on New Year's Day, after they made the grisly discovery inside the building. Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills said they had no suspects, but officials are pursuing the discovery as if it were a murder. He declined to release details about the priest's death.

Mayor Frank Jager said the victim was the Rev. Eric Freed, a "tremendous person in this community" who came to the church about three years ago, CNN reported.

Others remembered him similarly.

"He was a really, genuinely warm individual," said Professor Stephen Cunha, the chairman of Humboldt University's religious studies department where the priest taught for more than a decade, in the CNN report. "Kind is the word that comes to mind, sensitive. ... This was not some stuffy clergyman. He was very much someone that you could sit down and speak with."

The church is located about 275 miles from San Francisco. Police spent much of Wednesday looking for the priest's vehicle, hoping its discovery might provide some clues or leads.

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