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It’s been two and a half years since St. Bernard pastor Eric Freed was killed in his church rectory home. With his killer now convicted and sentenced, the Journal wanted to find out how the congregation has recovered, and what has changed to make the community safer since Freed’s death.
1. In some ways, the St. Bernard Catholic Church congregation has grown since the New Year’s Day 2014 murder of father Eric Freed. “[Freed’s death] made us stronger," said parishioner Cathy Dellabalma. "It's brought us much closer and it's brought back some people who were away."
2. It wasn’t easy though. The church and its congregation came together immediately, with Bishop Robert Vasa of the Santa Rosa Archdiocese coming to Eureka the day of the killing and Father Loren Allen, who now serves as the pastor of the St. Philip Catholic Church in Occidental, returning to lead his former congregation for eight months. Tom Diaz now leads the congregation.
3. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office continues to release inmates at all times of day and night, despite pleas from the community and a recommendation from the Grand Jury to end late night releases, when buses don’t run, shelters are closed and social services are unavailable. The sheriff has cited constitutional concerns, but multiple counties around the state hold inmates until dawn for safety reasons, and one law expert says that policy is likely defensible.
4. The Sheriff’s Office has begun using an “exit exam” process, during which inmates let out late at night are observed for signs of intoxication or mental illness that could pose a danger to themselves or others, the Sheriff’s Office explains. Inmates are also offered the opportunity to call a friend or family member, a taxi, or stay in custody until daylight.
5. Gary Lee Bullock, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, gave three interviews to psychiatrists before his trial that lend some insight into his mindset the night he was released from the Humboldt County jail before killing Freed hours later. In the interviews, he talks about hearing voices induced by methamphetamine use.