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Bloodied Crowbar Discovered in Home of Murder Suspect

July 20, 1994|KEVIN JOHNSON and GEBE MARTINEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

MAYER, Ariz. — A search of the home of John Joseph Famalaro, who has been charged with the murder of Denise Huber of Newport Beach, turned up a bloodied crowbar and a list of about 10 names, nine of them women, authorities revealed Tuesday.

Authorities located at least five of the women in Southern California and Phoenix. They planned to appeal for the public's help today in identifying the remainder.

Law enforcement authorities also began searching sites in Orange County for evidence. Court documents filed Tuesday in Mayer, a town near Prescott in central Arizona, indicate that police have seized numerous suspicious items from Famalaro's home, including articles of women's clothing, some of which appear to be stained with blood, a blood-tainted tarp and the crowbar that police suspect may be the murder weapon.

The revelations came after the body of Huber, 23 at the time of her disappearance, was found last week in a freezer in the back of a stolen rental truck parked in Famalaro's driveway. Huber vanished three years ago after she became stranded on the Corona del Mar Freeway with a flat tire. Famalaro, 37, is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Robert Shoults, whose wife, Gloria, was on the list of names, expressed surprise because their only connection with Famalaro was that they had sold him a van two years ago.

Police, who called to check on Gloria Shoults' well-being, "said that her name had turned up on some papers they had found," said Shoults, of Dewey, Ariz. "Having somebody like that in your neighborhood . . . does make your hair stand up a little bit, because this is generally a quiet area."

Huber was believed to have been bludgeoned to death, and a crowbar could have been the type of weapon used, authorities said.

In other developments Tuesday:

* Authorities, who have not ruled out additional suspects, said they want to question two men who are related to Famalaro in connection with the case.

* Police completed a comprehensive search of Famalaro's home, and expanded their search in Orange County, where Famalaro had rented several storage lockers and where he kept the freezer before moving to Arizona. Using axes, rakes and shovels, authorities Tuesday dug as deep as 10 feet below the surface in three areas of Famalaro's home where cadaver-sniffing dogs had "alerted," but no other bodies were discovered.

Police went to at least three storage facilities in Orange County on Tuesday, including Trabuco Self Storage and Lake Forest Storage. Costa Mesa Detective Sgt. Jerry Holloway said investigators "are finding some items of evidence that we can use," but he declined to elaborate.

Investigators are focusing on reconstructing how Famalaro and Huber may have come into contact June 3, 1991, the night of her disappearance, and his movements since. Police said Tuesday that they believe Huber was killed in Orange County shortly after her abduction and that her body was transported in the freezer, but it may be difficult to fix a time and place of death because of the condition of the body.

Law enforcement sources alternately discounted and were intrigued by the theory that Famalaro may have lured Huber to her death by posing as a law enforcement officer. Two phony Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department shirts were among the numerous items seized from his home. Both shirts had handmade replicas of the Los Angeles County sheriff's official patches sewn on them.

Famalaro's attorney, Lawrence William Katz, disputed the strength of the case against his client and attacked news media coverage.

Katz said he expects a grand jury to indict Famalaro this week. He said he would immediately seek to overturn the indictment on the ground that excessive publicity has compromised the grand jury.

Search warrant papers filed in Arizona on Tuesday revealed that police confiscated an extensive array of potentially incriminating items from Famalaro's home during an exhaustive search last week.

Besides the bloody crowbar, a number of seized items had crimson stains, including strips of white cloth, a tarp, tissue, a "yellow paper bodysuit," a sweat shirt and articles of women's clothing. Authorities are awaiting the results of blood and fingerprint tests.

Times staff writer Jeff Brazil contributed to this story.

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