EUREKA, Calif. — Police launched a murder investigation and searched today for the car of a respected priest and educator who was found dead in a church rectory in Northern California.
The body of the Rev. Eric Freed was discovered Wednesday in the St. Bernard Church rectory by a deacon after Freed failed to show up for morning Mass, Eureka Mayor Frank Jager said.
“The reverend was a victim of a violent crime,” Eureka police Chief Andrew Mills said. “We’re not sure on the motive but don’t believe it was a robbery at this point.”
Mills did not release the cause of death, saying police were awaiting a coroner’s report. Mills said it was not a shooting.
Freed died sometime after his Tuesday evening Mass, police said. Authorities were searching for his Altima Hybrid.
Jager said Freed was a close friend and a well-liked member of the community.
“He’s one of those wonderful people you meet from time to time that you’d like to clone,” Jager said. “He was very friendly and just a wonderful educator.”
Freed had taught classes on religion at Humboldt State University since 2007, including “Introduction to Christianity” and a class on Japanese calligraphy.
“It’s just horrid that someone of his quality would be snuffed out in this way,” his colleague William Herbrechtsmeier said. “What makes this a story is not the act of violence, because that happens every day, but the kind of person that it happened to.”
Herbrechtsmeier described his friend as a man of keen intellect who had a robust laugh and wide-ranging interests, including sports.
Humboldt State is a small university of 8,000 students near Redwood National Park and on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Freed grew up in Southern California and graduated from Loyola Marymount University. He completed his graduate studies in linguistics while in Italy where he also learned how to speak Italian fluently.
Freed also worked on a book related to the bombing of Hiroshima, helping a survivor translate haikus about the experience and providing commentary. When the book was published a few years ago, Humboldt State held a conference on genocide and violence.
Humboldt is a diverse community of dairy farming, fishing and a declining logging industry also known for its marijuana and methamphetamine production.