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Famalaro Judge Unswayed by Argument Denying Kidnapping


Ruling at the end of the prosecution's case Wednesday, a Superior Court judge refused to dismiss a kidnapping charge that will make John J. Famalaro eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted of killing Newport Beach resident Denise Huber.

Deputy Public Defender Denise Gragg argued that the prosecution had not proved that Huber was taken forcibly when she disappeared from the side of the Costa Mesa Freeway nearly six years ago while on her way home from a rock concert.

Gragg said that even if Famalaro used "trickery" to lure the 23-year-old Huber from the freeway, that does not constitute kidnapping. She added there was no evidence of a struggle at the scene of Huber's abandoned car.

"I understand that she ended up in a place she didn't want to be and ended up in a condition she didn't want to be in," Gragg said. "There's no evidence that she got there forcefully."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Evans said Huber was blindfolded, which he contends has "a ton of implications." The prosecutor added that "there was no consent at all" on the part of the victim when leaving the freeway.

Judge John J. Ryan denied the defense motion to dismiss the charge saying, "There are just too many reasonable inferences to show a kidnapping."

Casting doubt on the kidnapping and special-circumstance allegations of sexual assault are expected to be the focus of the defense portion of the trial, which begins today. So far, Famalaro's attorneys have not tried to argue that their client did not commit the murder.

The 39-year-old former Lake Forest resident was arrested in July 1994 when Huber's body was discovered inside of a locked freezer stored in a rental truck parked in front of his Arizona home. Huber had been missing for three years.

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