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Youth, 16, Held in Death of Actor David Huffman

March 13, 1985|SCOTT HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A 16-year-old high school student has been arrested in the Balboa Park stabbing death of Los Angeles actor David Huffman, authorities said Tuesday.

Genaro Samano Villanueva, described as a student at San Diego High School and an illegal alien from Mexico, was arrested Monday night after a tip from a state parole officer who had contacted Villanueva "in a non-official capacity" and recognized him as a possible suspect from a police composite drawing, police said.

Fred Jefferis, spokesman for the San Diego Unified School District, said police left a message for schools Supt. Thomas Payzant that said Villanueva had confessed to Huffman's murder. Police later declined, however, to confirm that report.

Police had few leads on Feb. 27 when a group of schoolchildren on a field trip discovered a body at about 1 p.m. in a wooded canyon in the center of Balboa Park.

Later that night the body was identified as that of Huffman, 40, who had been appearing in the role of Lenny in the Old Globe Theatre production "Of Mice and Men." He had been stabbed twice in the chest, probably with a screwdriver, police said.

Police Chief Bill Kolender said the nonprofit Crime Stoppers witness information program and wide publicity of the homicide case were instrumental in the arrest of Villanueva.

The first break in the case came when Canadian tourists in Torrance read a newspaper account of the case that included a photo of Huffman. The tourists, who had been visiting Balboa Park a few days earlier, recognized Huffman as the person they saw chase a man who had been prowling through their motor home. On March 4, they contacted authorities with their information.

Their account helped police develop the composite sketch of the suspect that led to Villanueva's arrest.

Villanueva was held at San Diego Juvenile Hall on one count of murder and one count of burglary.

Villanueva had lived for about five months with several relatives in a small house on the edge of downtown San Diego. He enrolled at San Diego High last Oct. 25, dropped out and then re-enrolled at the start of the second semester, school officials said.

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