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Family, Friends Pay Tribute to Slain Orange County Woman at Memorial

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Hundreds of people joined Saturday in bidding farewell to Denise Anette Huber, the ever-smiling young waitress who disappeared three years ago and was recently found bludgeoned to death in a freezer.

Beneath a sun-washed, denim-blue sky, family and friends, including those who came to know Huber’s parents only after the 23-year-old vanished along a Southern California freeway, gathered at Mariner’s Church in Newport Beach for a graceful, low-key memorial that included an abundance of tributes, testimonies and tears.

From as far as Canada and Tennessee, Huber’s relatives and friends traveled to attend the 90-minute service, where six of them, each allotted a brief moment to remember her equally brief life, recalled with humor her fondness for frogs, fun and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.

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“I’m from Vancouver and I did not share Denise’s enthusiasm for the Los Angeles Kings,” said Huber’s cousin Dave Nieuwsma, a youth pastor and Vancouver Canucks fan, whose remark prompted muffled laughter, one of half a dozen such lighter moments in an otherwise somber event.

Nieuwsma, whose oldest daughter was about Huber’s age, talked of possessing wonderful memories, but said the “one who brought those memories is gone.”

“I wish I could have been more like her,” said Debbie Scott, a former college roommate. “Life was so much fun when she was around.”

Although the grisly events of the past 10 days--since Huber’s body was found in Arizona inside a freezer belonging to a former Lake Forest man--were alluded to several times, the Rev. Walt Shepard urged people to set the past aside and look forward. And yet, in the next breath, he seemed unable to heed his own advice.

“You can’t help thinking . . . of some of the details that have come out in the investigation,” he said. “You’ve got to be thinking with me of the words blunt-force trauma.”

As Huber was eulogized Saturday afternoon, investigators and criminologists continued to pore over evidence in the case and said they have concluded that John Joseph Famalaro, the man charged with her murder in Arizona, probably acted alone. Yet authorities said they have not dismissed the possibility that Famalaro, a 37-year-old house painter, had help hiding her body for more than three years.


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