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Famalaro Won’t Fight Extradition, Lawyer Says : Court: Exactly when the suspect in Denise Huber’s slaying will be transported to Orange County may be kept secret out of fear for his safety.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

John J. Famalaro will not fight extradition to California to face charges he murdered a young Newport Beach woman, but his pending transportation to Orange County may be kept secret out of fear for his safety, his defense attorney said Monday.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Raymond W. Weaver has scheduled a Wednesday court hearing to allow Famalaro, 37, the chance to waive extradition to California, where he could face the death penalty if convicted of kidnaping and killing Denise Huber and keeping her body in a freezer for nearly three years.

Huber’s name became well-known in Orange County after her disappearance in June, 1991, led to a high-profile, nationwide search by her distraught parents and stumped law enforcement officials.

Since the discovery of Huber’s body in a freezer that Famalaro kept running in a rental van parked in his driveway, the former Orange County house painter has easily become Orange County’s most reviled murder suspect--sparking the concerns for his safety.

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Defense attorney Thomas K. Kelly said he believes Orange County law enforcement officials will do all they can to avoid publicity when they whisk Famalaro back to Orange County, where he has lived most of his life.

“Given the notoriety of the case in Southern California, the magnitude of the publicity surrounding this, for security reasons I think this will be all done in secret,” Kelly said.

Famalaro has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

In the past, the return to Orange County of suspects arrested elsewhere has frequently been done with advance notice to the public.

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Earlier this year, a large crowd gathered at an Orange County airport to jeer and shout as convicted sex offender Edward Patrick Morgan was returned from Northern California to face charges he murdered and sexually assaulted a young Huntington Beach woman.

“From a security point of view, it would probably be a good idea not to pre-publish the process,” Yavapai County prosecutor Thomas B. Lindberg said.

Both Kelly and Lindberg said they do not believe Wednesday’s hearing is required by law, but said they believe Weaver is being appropriately cautious given the serious nature of the charges.

If Wednesday’s hearing goes as expected, Orange County law enforcement officials will have 10 days to transport Famalaro under extradition warrants signed by California Gov. Pete Wilson and Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, officials said.

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Orange County Assistant Dist. Atty. John Conley said Costa Mesa police will handle the transportation but said it has not yet been decided when and how that will take place.

Huber was last seen alive on June 3, 1991, as she was returning home from a rock concert in Los Angeles County. Her car broke down on the Corona del Mar Freeway less than two miles from her home.

Famalaro, a former reserve officer at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy, was arrested July 13 after law enforcement officers investigating a report of a stolen vehicle made a grisly discovery. Huber’s, nude, handcuffed body was found in the freezer, which was stowed inside a Ryder rental truck that had been reported stolen when Famalaro failed to return it on time.

Arizona authorities charged Famalaro with murder, but jurisdiction in the case shifted to Orange County when authorities discovered traces of Huber’s blood in a Laguna Hills storage facility where Famalaro had rented space at the time of the killing. Since this discovery suggests that the slaying occurred in California, Arizona agreed to relinquish the case the Orange County.

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Authorities believe Famalaro kidnaped, lured or forced Huber to the Laguna Hills facility and bludgeoned her to death. Some law enforcement officials speculate Famalaro might have been posing as an officer at the time, because sheriff’s department uniforms were found in his home.

Tests are pending to determine whether Huber was sexually assaulted. Her personal effects were found in a box in Famalaro’s garage marked “Christmas,” while newspaper articles about her disappearance were found in his home.


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