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Famalaro Given Week to Weigh Extradition Fight : Courts: Arizona attorney representing man accused of killing Denise Huber says he needs more time to review documents. Local public defender does not expect his client to contest proceeding.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Murder suspect John J. Famalaro was granted a week’s reprieve Monday to decide whether to fight his extradition to Orange County on charges of killing Denise Huber and keeping her body in a freezer.

Appearing in Yavapai County Superior Court on a governors’ warrant, Famalaro sat quietly, staring straight ahead during a brief court hearing in which Judge Raymond W. Weaver Jr. gave the defense until 5 p.m. Aug. 29 to file documents contesting extradition.

Defense attorney Thomas K. Kelly, who is representing Famalaro in Arizona matters, said outside of court that he needs more time to review the extradition documents signed by Govs. Pete Wilson and Fife Symington and filed in court here Monday.

“If we feel there are some legal issues there, we could contest the validity of the complaint or the extradition warrant,” Kelly said.

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Deputy Public Defender Leonard Gumlia, who is representing Famalaro in Orange County, said it has been beneficial to keep Famalaro in Arizona to assist members of the defense team digging into Famalaro’s background locally and to give the defense more time to prepare for the case.

Still, Gumlia said, he expects Famalaro to waive extradition next Monday.

“Assuming (the extradition paperwork) is all in order, John Famalaro will waive on the 29th,” Gumlia said, adding that Monday’s hearing “is not a statement that extradition is going to be fought.”

Famalaro’s anticipated waiver of extradition would be a token gesture of cooperation. Experts say extradition is inevitable unless a defendant can prove that he is not the suspect being sought or that law enforcement has erred in considering him a suspect.

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Famalaro faces the death penalty if convicted of kidnaping and murdering Huber, a 23-year-old Newport Beach waitress who vanished in June, 1991, after a tire blew out on her car on the Corona del Mar Freeway as she was driving home from a rock concert.

Arizona law enforcement officials last month found Huber’s nude, handcuffed body in a running freezer stowed inside a stolen rental truck that was parked in Famalaro’s driveway. Huber’s belongings were found in Famalaro’s garage in a box marked “Christmas.”

Medical tests are pending to determine whether Huber was sexually assaulted.

Jurisdiction in the case shifted from Yavapai County to Orange County after law enforcement authorities discovered traces of Huber’s blood in a Laguna Hills warehouse rented by Famalaro.

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Authorities allege that Huber was abducted or lured from the side of the road and killed in the warehouse.

If Famalaro waives extradition, as expected, he must be transported to Orange County within 10 days, said Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Laurie Berra.

Kelly said if he decided to waive extradition, Famalaro could be taken from Arizona as early as Monday evening.

Orange County Assistant Dist. Atty. John Conley said Monday that authorities have not yet decided who will go to Arizona to pick up the suspect or whether Famalaro will be brought back to Orange County “by air, land or by sea.”

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“We’re waiting until (extradition) actually happens,” Conley said. “Until it goes down, you don’t react.”

Famalaro, 37, has been a model prisoner during his monthlong incarceration at the Yavapai County Jail, authorities said.

In other developments Monday, Weaver agreed to dismiss a theft charge against Famalaro stemming from the stolen rental truck. The dismissal, which could be refiled if necessary, will smooth the way for extradition on the more serious charges, said Yavapai County Counsel Thomas B. Lindberg.

“All it means is the defense is trying to buy a little more time,” Lindberg said of the extradition issue. When told of Lindberg’s remarks, Kelly said the prosecutor was very “perceptive” but declined further comment on the matter.

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Famalaro appeared healthy during the hearing and did not shy away from the media cameras. As on prior occasions, he wore an orange jail uniform as he shuffled into the courtroom, his ankles shackled and his wrists handcuffed and bound to his waist.

Kelly said his client is doing as well as can be expected, but he is concerned about his family. Famalaro has had several visits with his parents and sister, but noted that Famalaro’s father, who has Parkinson’s disease, was recently hospitalized.

Famalaro lived next door to his parents and was their primary caretaker until his arrest.


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