Reverend Eric Freed was the beloved pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish for three years, before he was found murdered in the rectory of the church at 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Here’s what we know:
1. Freed’s Body Was Discovered After He Failed to Show Up for Mass
The Times-Standard reports that Freed was last seen at St. Bernard’s Parish in Eureka, California, at 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, where he delivered the evening mass.
The following morning, Winette Treder was one of the parishioners gathered to hear Freed deliver morning mass, when Deacon Frank Weber entered to say that there was something terribly wrong with the reverend.
Police were called to the scene on a report of an “unconscious male.”
Treder said she and her fellow parishioners said the rosary for Freed, until police eventually asked them to leave.
2. Police Are Searching for Freed’s Car
As of Thursday morning, the police have not divulged any information about the condition of Freed’s body, or any possible motive for his apparent killing. We do know that they are seeking the reverend’s car, asking the public to share any information they may have regarding the dark gray Nissan Altima hybrid, license plate 6NDW400. Police instruct citizens not to approach the vehicle should they discover it, but rather to call the Eureka Police Department Communications Center at 707-441-4044.
3. A Possible Break-In Was Reported at a Nearby Church Wednesday Afternoon
On Wednesday afternoon, an employee at Sacred Heart Church, on Myrtle Avenue in Eureka, opened the door of the church to find an unknown man inside. The man reportedly fled as the employee dialed the police. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dave Morey is uncertain whether the incident is connected to Freed’s death, telling the Times-Standard: “We have no idea, but we are treating it like it might be, just to be careful.”
4. Freed Wrote the Introduction to a Book of Haikus About Hiroshima
Freed lived in Japan for more than 20 years, an experience which helped him make inroads for the church in Eureka’s Japanese-American community.
In 2009, Freed published a book of haikus written about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, written by a survivor who was 15 years old at the time of the bombing.
He wrote an op-ed in the Japan Times on the memorial of the bombing, in which he celebrated the Japanese for the way their remembrance of the tragedy was free of any sentiment of vengeance, writing:
“As Americans we have frequently remembered in order to get vindication. ‘Remember the Alamo,’ ‘Remember the Maine,’ ‘Remember Pearl Harbor,’ ‘Remember 9/11.’ These are the slogans that we have taken to wars…This is a less noble act of remembering.”
5. He Was Beloved by Both Parishioners & Students
Freed taught in Humboldt State University’s religious studies department for over 10 years and was deeply involved in their Catholic student Group, The Newman Center. Stephen Cunha, the chairmen of the religious studies’ department, described Freed as “a really, genuinely warm individual … 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 to.”
Eureka mayor Frank Jager said of Freed’s killing: “This is an absolutely tremendous loss not only for the St. Bernard’s Parish, but for our community generally. For those of us who believe in prayer, this is the time for that.”
The Times-Standard published a list of remembrances at the bottom of their report.