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FAMALARO DEATH PENALTY VERDICT

Mother Cited by Defense Shares Letter From Son

June 19, 1997|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Even though it was his 71-year-old mother whom defense attorneys largely blamed for John J. Famalaro's troubles, the defendant faithfully wrote letters to her during his murder trial, discussing testimony in the case and apologizing for what he was putting her through.

"I hope you are doing alright (sic)," Famalaro wrote in a letter, dated during the month of May, that his mother showed The Times. "I am sorry that you are put in your current position."

He also stated in the letter: "I love you and would give you a big hug if I could. I pray for you and dad all the time."

Famalaro's mother, Anne Famalaro, said her son penned numerous letters, including the one she shared.

Anne Famalaro was a major focus of Famalaro's defense. She was portrayed as cold, distant and mentally ill. Defense attorneys said it was her cruel mistreatment that left her son unable to lead a normal life.

Still, Famalaro remained devoted to her and would look to her seat in the audience when entering the courtroom each day. Anne Famalaro, a resident of Arizona, attended parts of the criminal portion of the trial but did not return after testifying early in the penalty phase.

And Anne Famalaro stood behind her son.

"He's a good boy," she remarked in a brief interview. "This was an aberration." She said she believed Famalaro had some kind of breakdown when he killed Huber.

Famalaro's 80-year-old father, Angelo, is ill and was unable to attend or testify in his son's trial. He was described by family members as a caring man who tuned out his wife's bizarre behavior in order to keep peace.

Anne Famalaro was with her son in July 1994 when he was stopped by sheriff's deputies in Arizona and arrested for killing Denise Huber.

Famalaro did not testify during the trial, but one of the letters to his mother makes clear that he was paying close attention to the details of the case.

He wrote that Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Evans was an excellent attorney "even though at least 75% of what he presents is fantasy, fiction, fabrication and untrue."

After the credibility of one defense expert was shattered by Evans during cross-examination, Famalaro wrote that he "wanted to burst out laughing."

"About one minute into his testimony, I knew he was in big trouble," he wrote. "As it rapidly deteriorated, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry."

One day during the criminal portion of the trial, Famalaro gave his mother a spiritual book with the following inscription to his parents: "I wish you many spiritual fruits. Our Lord is always with you. My love is always with you. I continue to hope and pray that we will one day be reunited as a family in heaven . . . God willing."

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