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Police Recover Clothes Believed to Be Those of Victim in Freezer

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Building their case against murder suspect John Joseph Famalaro, Arizona and Costa Mesa authorities have recovered clothing believed to have been worn by Denise Huber the night she vanished from Orange County three years ago.

The articles of clothing, a black mini-skirt and other articles, were discovered in a box inside Famalaro’s cluttered Prescott Country Club home. They were identified by Costa Mesa police and could be key evidence linking the suspect with the Newport Beach woman, whose nude body was found frozen in the back of a stolen rental truck parked in his driveway.

Investigators on Monday also interviewed employees of a San Clemente self-storage facility where Famalaro rented seven units from July, 1992--a year after Huber disappeared--to February of this year. Famalaro contracted to have constant power maintained to the locker where he kept his personal belongings, including a freezer that may have been the one in which Huber’s body was discovered last week, said Harry Tosado, facility manager of Allsize Self-Storage.

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“The whole time the freezer was here, he wanted 24-hour electricity, which people here thought was very odd,” Tosado said. “It’s written right on the contract, ’24 hours.’ ”

When Famalaro moved the last of his belongings out of the facility in February, he asked the employees to help load the freezer onto his truck without delay.

“He said he had a generator on his truck that would keep the freezer running while he was driving, but the main thing was, he wanted it loaded real quick,” Tosado said.

The discovery of the clothing and other personal effects, meanwhile, has led authorities to consider filing an additional charge of kidnaping against Famalaro, said Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ron Smith, which would make it a capital crime.

There were these other developments Monday:

* Authorities were investigating the source of the freezer, and believe it may have been bought at a Montgomery Ward store in the Orange County area shortly after Huber’s disappearance.

* Fingerprints have been lifted from the freezer, and officials were attempting to match those to Famalaro.

* A Yavapai County Grand Jury prepared to consider an indictment in the case as early as Thursday.

Meanwhile, Famalaro’s defense attorney, Lawrence W. Katz, said he is upset by the frenzied attention to his client.

“This is a total circumstance case,” Katz said.

In discussing the evidence accumulating in the investigation, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Laurie Berra said there did not appear to be any effort to conceal the clothing.

New details about the condition of Huber’s frozen body also emerged Monday, including that the brown-haired woman was found face down inside the 23-cubic-foot Signature brand freezer. Her hands were handcuffed behind her, Yavapai County Sheriff G.C. (Buck) Buchanan said.

Authorities said Huber appeared to have suffered 10 to 12 blows and cuts on the head, consistent with injuries inflicted by a hammer or crowbar. Smith said there were no signs of sexual abuse.

Times staff writers Rebecca Trounson, Michael Granberry, Len Hall and David Reyes contributed to this story.


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