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Ex-Girlfriend Describes Famalaro’s Secretive Ways : Crime: She tells police suspect in Huber killing kept doors bolted, tried to hide relationship from his mother.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A woman who had dated murder suspect John J. Famalaro told authorities he led a secretive life, keeping his bathroom door locked and only allowing her to visit at night to keep their relationship hidden from his mother, according to new evidence released Tuesday.

In a two-hour interview that touched on numerous topics, the former girlfriend told investigators Famalaro, 37, enjoyed critiquing murder plots in movies and seemed obsessed about an old girlfriend from Orange County whose description is similar to that of Denise Huber, the Newport Beach woman he is charged with murdering.

The girlfriend was beautiful, with long dark hair and a perfect figure, and Famalaro said he spent most of his time at her home, Marla Tollett of Prescott recalled in a tape made shortly after Huber’s body was found. She said she could not be sure of the woman’s name but said “Denise” sounded familiar.

“It was almost like an obsession with her,” Tollett recalled, adding that Famalaro enjoyed bragging that most men were jealous when they would see him with such a lovely woman. “It was just really odd.”

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But Tollett said the strangest part was Famalaro’s reaction when she asked why the two broke up. She said Famalaro “disappeared,” having no response whatsoever to the question. He later told her things just didn’t work out between the two, she said.

One Arizona law enforcement source who declined to be identified said Famalaro may have “dreamed up” a fantasy relationship with Huber, but said there was no evidence to support the two ever dated or even met before the night she died.

Tollett said she ultimately broke up with Famalaro because he lied and defrauded customers who hired the house painter for home improvement projects. Arizona authorities revoked Famalaro’s contracting license earlier this year.

The videotaped interview conducted at the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department with Tollett is the latest piece of evidence that portrays Famalaro as a man with many secrets, who became agitated when anyone poked around his cluttered home. He kept most doors inside his Prescott Country Club home bolted, said Tollett, who said she even had to ask Famalaro for a key to the bathroom.

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“I never felt free to roam about the house; he would keep all the doors locked,” she said.

She said she never smelled unusual odors in the home but said Famalaro never used deodorant and rarely opened windows.

“It did get pretty rank in there from time to time,” she said, adding that Famalaro was still “fun to be around,” always “laughing, cutting up.”

Famalaro is expected to appear in Yavapai County Superior Court today to waive extradition to Orange County, where he potentially faces the death penalty if convicted of killing 23-year-old Huber.

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Huber’s nude, handcuffed body was found last month in a running freezer stowed inside a stolen rental truck parked in Famalaro’s driveway. Her clothes, purse and other items were found in a box marked “Christmas” in the home owned by Duane Thobe, Famalaro’s former brother-in-law.

Famalaro has lived there ever since moving from Orange County to Arizona in mid-1992.

Tollett said she once asked Famalaro about the 15 to 20 boxes with holiday labels on a shelf in the garage.

“‘Oh, that’s just Duane’s stuff that I’m keeping for Duane, because Duane doesn’t have room to store it,”’ Tollett recalled Famalaro saying.

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Authorities say they have ruled out Duane Thobe as a suspect. Tollett had dated Thobe, but the two broke up in late 1992 and she began seeing Famalaro in spring of 1993. Tollett recalled that Thobe always seemed “fascinated” by his former brother-in-law.

Tollett said Famalaro wanted to keep their relationship secret from his mother, who lived next door. Many have depicted Anna Famalaro as a domineering mother who tried to control all of her son’s relationships, an accusation Anna Famalaro denies.

“What I thought kind of odd about my relationship with John was that he always wanted to keep it very secretive,” she said. Famalaro feared his mother would accuse him of taking Tollett away from Thobe and “you just don’t do that in a Catholic family,” Tollett recalled Famalaro explaining.

She said Famalaro also avoided going out at night so his mother would not see him leaving.

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“He never left the house after he got there in the evenings,” she said.


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