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Huber Case Evidence on Way to O.C. : Courts: In separate hearings, Famalaro hears first-degree murder charges and judge orders transfer of truckload of material from Arizona.

July 30, 1994|JODI WILGOREN and GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A judge on Friday informed John J. Famalaro that he faces charges of first-degree murder and kidnaping in Orange County in connection with the death of Denise Huber and set an extradition hearing in 30 days.

In a separate hearing, another judge approved the transfer of all evidence in the case to Costa Mesa, directed Famalaro to provide blood, saliva, hair and handwriting samples to prosecutors and ordered all local law enforcement personnel to preserve their notes from the investigation for possible use by the defense.

Costa Mesa police detectives Linda Giesler and Frank Rudisill, who have spent nearly two weeks in Prescott working on the case, are scheduled to drive a moving van filled with evidence, including the 23-cubic-foot freezer in which Famalaro allegedly stored Huber's battered body for three years, back to Orange County today.

Police Lt. Ron Smith and the two detectives spent more than two hours Friday evening loading carefully labeled boxes, filing cabinets and lumber from a dismantled cabinet in Famalaro house into the 17-foot truck outside the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department.

"It's almost filled to the roof," Smith said as he carried out a box.

Huber's body is scheduled to be flown today from Phoenix, where an autopsy was conducted, to South Dakota, where her family is planning a funeral Tuesday.

Huber, a 23-year-old waitress from Newport Beach, disappeared after a rock concert June 3, 1991. Police discovered her bludgeoned body wrapped in trash bags in the freezer in a stolen Ryder truck outside Famalaro's Prescott Country Club home earlier this month. Famalaro was arrested on murder charges, but on Thursday, authorities filed papers to move the case to Orange County, where they believe Huber was kidnaped and killed.

Looking gaunt in a bright orange jail uniform, Famalaro, 37, stood during the five-minute hearing Friday afternoon in Yavapai County Courthouse with his hands shackled to a chain around his waist, clutching a Manila envelope his attorneys said contained legal paperwork.

When Prescott Justice of the Peace Robert W. Kuebler Jr. asked whether he understood the California charges and the Arizona fugitive warrant, Famalaro responded, "Yes, your honor."

Kuebler then read him his Miranda rights and asked again if he understood. "Yes, your honor," Famalaro repeated.

Kuebler then set a hearing for extradition to California for Aug. 29.

Thomas Kelly, Famalaro's Arizona defense attorney, and Leonard Gumlia, the deputy public defender assigned to handle the case in Orange County, both said later that they are unsure whether Famalaro will attempt to block his extradition to California. They said a decision on that is likely within two weeks.

Yavapai County Deputy Counsel Thomas Lindberg said that prosecutors in California had already set in motion the process of getting a governor's warrant to force Famalaro's transfer, should he protest.

Gumlia and two assistants from the Orange County public defender's office spent Friday in Prescott, talking with Famalaro and his mother, visiting the site where the body was discovered, meeting with Kelly and co-defense counsel Warren Darrow, and sorting through newspaper clippings about the case.

"It looks very challenging, very intriguing, and it may involve a man who's innocent," Gumlia said, cautioning that he had not had a chance to review any of the evidence.

In the second hearing connected to the case Friday afternoon, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Raymond W. Weaver Jr. rejected Kelly's effort to keep Famalaro from providing the samples to prosecutors.

Kelly pointed to a provision in the Arizona Constitution that protects suspects from giving evidence that might incriminate them. But Lindberg countered with case law in which the "evidence" referred to has always been interpreted to mean testimony.

Lindberg said the hair, blood, saliva and handwriting samples would be taken from Famalaro at the jail Monday.

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