Prosecuting Attorney Says Statements Gary Bullock Made to Family From the Jail Will Be Used in Court
John Chiv covers the local legal system for his blog. He shares his observations on some of the more high profile trials with us in our Humboldt Justice guest column.
Today, jurors listened to the prosecuting attorney Andrew Isaac give his opening statement in the trial of Southern Humboldt man Gary Bullock in the death of Catholic priest Father Freed. John Chiv gives a detailed description of today’s courtroom scene below. Chiv writes,
Listing the order of witnesses he intends to call, the timeline he intends to finish his part of the case which is expected to be by next Friday, and key evidence supporting charges, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Isaac drew a road map for the jurors in the Bullock trial in his opening statement which lasted about 45 minutes.
DA investigator Martin Perrone will be the first witness, said Mr. Isaac. “He will show you a video of church surveillance.”
“Right now somewhere in the U.S., some prosecutor is saying, actions are louder than words,” said Mr. Isaac. “In this case, we have both; we have video and we have audio.”
A phone call made on August 23 was played for the jury. Bullock is talking with his mother, Carol Bruno. Bullock is heard saying, “They got me on video going into the house. They got me dead to rights.”
“As the judge told you, my job is to tell you what the evidence will show or what it will not show,” said Mr. Isaac. “Mr. Bullock killed Fr. Freed. Mr. Bullock broke into the house. Mr. Bullock drove away with Fr. Freed’s car.”
Mr. Isaac then held up Exhibit 122 which was diagrams made by Dr. Mark Super, a forensic pathologist, who did Fr. Freed’s autopsy. The paper was filled with sketches of Fr. Freed’s body with hand written notes all over. “Fr. Freed was beaten from top of the head to foot. I will you show the cut on his toe.”
“We will start by showing you a video of Mr. Bullock breaking into the house. The first witness will be Martin Perrone. He will tell you how he collected and condensed surveillance video from the church.”
Mr. Isaac showed the exhibit which has “the outline of the grounds and rectory” with numbered locations of cameras and pictures next to cameras, which are small representations, of what the jurors will see on the video. The time frame is approximately from 2 a.m to 7 a.m., said Mr. Isaac. “You are not going to see five hours, you will see an hour and a half when Mr. Bullock is on video.”
“You will see Mr. Bullock going in and out of the house collecting stakes and pipe” which were used to beat Fr. Freed., said Issac. “Dr. Super will explain semi-circular gashes on Fr. Freed’s chest which resemble gashes on the wall. Right next to the wall is a big pipe.”
The second witness will be EPD Detective Amber Cosetti. She was one of the officers along with Officer Crnich who answered a call and went to talk with Bullock at St. Bernard’s the night/early morning hours of December 31, 2013-Jan 1, 2014.
“They encounter Mr. Bullock outside the rectory. It may not be clear why Mr. Bullock was in and about but he was in the area near the church. Detective Cosetti is trained in Crisis Intervention Training.” Mr. Isaac said. “She will tell you she was face to face with Mr. Bullock. He told her he was looking for shelter/rehab. He seemed rational; not in crisis.”
The next witness will be Deacon Frank Weber. When Fr. Freed did not show up for mass around 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Issac said that Deacon Weber went to check on his friend. He found Eric Freed dead.
Eureka Police Officer Ben Omey was one of the first responders on the scene, along with EMT and firefighters, said Issac. “Ben will tell you everyone who went in smelled gas. He went into the kitchen. One burner was lit. Next to it was a smoldering cigar. We got the cigar.”
Department of Justice analysts Kay Belschner, from Eureka and Amy Rojas, from Okland, tested that cigar. “Mr. Bullock’s DNA is on the cigar,” Issac stated. Then he argued that Bullock was “intending to blow the rectory. He didn’t watch enough McGyver. You have to place the cigar far away. Mr. Bullock did not. He put it next to the burner. He tried to burn the place down twice.”
Mr. Isaac told the jurors that when Fr. Freed’s body was first discovered, “he was cocooned inside bedding with a wooden stake.” Isaac then argued that the video will show Bullock bring in the stake and a chunk of iron pipe.
Isaac stated that “[t]he initial confrontation happened at the top of the landing. The evidence is Fr. Freed’s phone. Chunks of cell phone found at the top of the stairs and some in a room. There is a table smeared with Fr. Freed’s blood. Chunk of a t-shirt ripped out. Tape dispenser smeared with blood. Big gash on Fr. Freed’s nose. The evidence will not tell you whether it is from the tape dispenser or nails on the wood.”
“You will see debris, rust matching pipe, chips of paint on the stairs, chips of wood sticking out of Fr. Freed’s legs. You will have the pipes Gary Bullock used to beat Fr. Freed.”
“You will have the most disturbing piece of evidence in the case. Some call it a vase. Bottom is jagged.” This has been identified in the evidentiary hearings as a Pilsner glass.
“Dr. Super will tell you about a hole in Fr. Freed’s tongue. That hole was bored when Gary Bullock jammed that beer glass down Fr. Eric’s throat and twisted it.”
The next witness will be DA Investigator John Burke. Part of his duties involve listening to recordings of phone calls made by inmates. According to Isaac, Burke listened to 60 hours of recordings. There are four calls the jury will hear. Mr. Isaac then repeats partial quotes he said he got from the calls. Isaac said he quoted Bullock telling his grandmother, “If you bail me out, I will tell you everything.”
“Another call to his mother and father.” Mr. Isaac quoted Bullock as saying, “When you do, it will scare the shit out of you.”
Issac said he intended to prove that Bullock intended for Fr. Freed to suffer. Issac alleged that what killed the priest was a combination of being beaten and choked. Mr. Isaac said that a person can suffer internal damage to the throat from applied pressure. “If you hit hard on the face, the brain shuts off breathing. What didn’t kill him was the broken spine.”
“I have to prove Mr. Bullock intended to kill Fr. Freed,” Mr. Isaac said, again. “I also have to prove that he intended to burn the house. I have to prove he intended to take the keys.” Mr. Isaac said that in the phone call Bullock made to his wife, Stephanie, a month and a half after Mr. Bullock is in jail. He tells her that “they offered me a phone call but I figured no one of you guys would come get me, so I figured I’d find a way home.”
“You will see Mr. Bullock drive away with Fr. Freed’s car. The car was found near his parent’s house, covered. So if you fly over in a helicopter, you wouldn’t see it.”
“You will see Mr. Bullock look into the camera. You will see him wearing a blue shirt and black pants. You will have those clothes. Amy Rojas will tell you Fr. Freed’s blood is on that shirt.”
HCSO Detective Greg Musson will testify. He had to assist EPD in finding the road to Bullock’s stepfather and mother’s house as he is more familiar with that area. Mr. Isaac spoke about how evidence found by citizens, later collected by Sgt. Jesse Taylor and Deputy Brawner will show that Bullock “crossed the Miranda Bridge in Fr. Freed’s car. I have to prove he knew what he was doing.” Mr. Isaac said that Bullock threw an insurance card, a Bear River and Cher-ae-Heights Casino card, a Bible, a briefcase and keys from HSU and other items into the water.
“I can’t prove to you what was in his mind when he went there but the evidence will show you that he went after Fr. Freed and at some point killed Fr. Freed,” said Issac.
The defense will be making their opening statements after the prosecution rests. For more on this story, go to John Chiv’s blog.
- Gary Bullock: Countdown to Tragedy
- Evidence Is Presented and Jury Selection Begins in Trial of Gary Bullock