Rev. Eric Freed dead: Popular Catholic priest found murdered at church in California

St. Bernard Catholic Parish website

A respected and beloved Roman Catholic priest from California has been found dead inside the church's rectory on Wednesday.

Rev. Eric Freed was discovered dead at around 9 a.m. on the morning of New Year's day at the St. Bernard Parish church in Eureka, California.

A murder investigation has been launched by police, but no suspects have been named yet.

Freed served as the sole pastor of St. Bernard church for three years and was loved by the community. He also taught in the Religious Studies Department at Humboldt State University. He was the director of the Newman Center campus.

In a Christmas letter to parishioners in December 2013, Freed wrote: "I cannot tell you how proud and honored I am to be your pastor. Our parish is alive, joyful, and full of faith, hope, and charity that define us as Catholic Christians. Our efforts in our faith journey will certainly help to make this Christmas also very, very special."

The St. Bernard church website now features a cross with the words "Rest In Peace" for their slain pastor.

Freed was last seen at the church at 6:20 p.m. on Tuesday evening when he celebrated mass. Few details have been released surrounding Freed's death. Parishioners were worried when Freed did not show up for 9 a.m. mass on Wednesday. Deacon Frank Weber reportedly went looking for him, before telling people there was something wrong with Father Eric Freed.

Police are trying to locate Freed's car, which is a gray Nissan Altima Hybrid, with license plate 6NDW400. Anyone with any information can also call EPD at 441-4044.