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Huber Believed Originally Held in Refrigerator

July 27, 1994|KEVIN JOHNSON and RENE LYNCH | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A police affidavit and diagram filed in court here Tuesday indicate that Denise Huber may have been killed and her body kept in an upright refrigerator-freezer in an Orange County warehouse until the man accused of killing her purchased a larger deep freeze.

The documents, filed in a Yavapai County court with a request for a third warrant to search the home of murder suspect John J. Famalaro, may explain the mystery of Huber's whereabouts in the nine days that passed between her disappearance and when her accused killer took delivery of the deep freeze in which her body was discovered three years later.

One Arizona law enforcement official confirmed that investigators theorize that Huber's body may have been stored in the side-by-side refrigerator-freezer that Famalaro kept in the Laguna Hills warehouse, but cautioned that evidence was thus far lacking to prove the theory.

"The theory is being looked at," the official said. "But when it comes down to putting on the case, you can only prove what you can prove. What really happened may never really be known. There were no eyeball witnesses."

"Since the issuance of the (third) search warrant, (Yavapai Sheriff Deputy Lonnie E. Brown) has been advised of information that leads to the belief that the Hotpoint refrigerator may have been involved in the death of Denise Huber," states the affidavit filed with the search warrant request.

Special tests to detect whether there was blood on or in the refrigerator-freezer did not reveal any traces, even though bloodstains had been found all around the area where the refrigerator-freezer had stood in the warehouse.

Tests have yet to be conducted on lumber and other wooden materials that were thought to be near the refrigerator-freezer while it was in the warehouse. Several truckloads of lumber and wooden siding were seized in Tuesday's search.

Authorities also tested Famalaro's vehicles for traces of blood, but the official said those tests were also believed to be negative. The vehicles identified for testing included two white vans parked outside the home of Famalaro's mother, who lives next door to Famalaro's Prescott Country Club home, and a 1977 Dodge pickup that was parked in his driveway.

The tests involved the use of Luminol, a substance used to highlight blood traces when they cannot be scene under normal circumstances.

The Hotpoint refrigerator-freezer was seized from Famalaro's kitchen at his Arizona hilltop home by investigators Monday.

Famalaro lived in the Laguna Hills warehouse facility between February, 1991, and August, 1992, according to the affidavit. Costa Mesa police recently found traces of blood there, and a diagram prepared by Costa Mesa Police Detective Jack Archer revealed that numerous bloodstains were detected around the area where the refrigerator-freezer had been installed.

Authorities are expected to announce later this week whether samples taken from that area match blood taken from Huber's partially decomposed body.

Based on interviews with Famalaro's brother-in-law, Duane A. Thobe, authorities stated in the affidavit that Thobe helped move Famalaro from a home in Lake Forest to the warehouse in the spring or summer of 1990.

During that move, Thobe told investigators that he helped Famalaro construct a loft and a large wooden cabinet, approximately 10 feet by 4 feet, specifically to enclose the refrigerator-freezer. His lease did not allow him to live in the warehouse, and several men who worked with Famalaro in his house-painting business said the area where he apparently took up housekeeping was off-limits any time they visited.

The wooden cabinet's swinging doors were equipped to be locked, authorities said. Thobe told investigators that he had later seen the refrigerator-freezer in the cabinet and that Famalaro was using the warehouse as a "residence-business."

When Costa Mesa authorities went to search the warehouse, detectives found that the cabinet and loft had been removed. However, investigators found traces of blood "at or near where the refrigerator-freezer had been standing inside the cabinet," the affidavit stated.

Tuesday, when Costa Mesa authorities returned to the Famalaro home in Arizona to continue searching for clues, they removed two truckloads of lumber and other wooden pieces.

Authorities declined to comment on why the wood was being seized, but an official close to the investigation said it was possible that police returned to Arizona to look for materials that could have been used to build the cabinet and loft in Laguna Hills.

Early in the investigation, both Costa Mesa police and Arizona officials expressed great interest in speaking with Thobe, who owns the country club home here where Famalaro lived, and where authorities discovered Huber's body the 23-cubic-foot freezer that was running in the back of a Ryder rental truck.

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