Now that the man who killed their daughter has been convicted and a jury has decided that he should be executed, all Dennis and Ione Huber want is to hear John J. Famalaro say he is sorry.
“I would like to hear something from him,” the 53-year-old mother of Denise Huber said Thursday. “I’d like to know why and see some sort of remorse and hear an apology. I don’t know what’s going on in his head.”
Dennis Huber, 58, said that after sitting in a front-row seat throughout the six-week trial, he “didn’t see any sorrow at all” in the eyes of the 40-year-old Famalaro, even when the former house painter heard the jury call for his death.
“An apology and an explanation would be nice,” the father said.
The Hubers will return to their home in Mandan, N.D., on Saturday. One of the things they want to do is visit their daughter’s grave in Harreid, S.D., where she is buried next to her grandfather, Edward Huber.
The parents will have an opportunity to hear from Famalaro, should he choose to address them, when he is formally sentenced Sept. 5 by Orange County Superior Court Judge John. J. Ryan. At that time, the family will also have a chance to address Famalaro directly for the first time and talk about the impact his murderous act has had on their lives.
Although Ryan has the legal discretion to reduce the jury’s verdict to life in prison without parole, it has never before happened in a death penalty case in Orange County.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for a day and a half before returning with a death penalty recommendation Wednesday for Famalaro, who the month before they had convicted of kidnapping, sodomizing and killing the 23-year-old Newport Beach woman.
Denise Huber encountered Famalaro after getting a flat tire on the Corona del Mar Freeway while on her way home from a rock concert on June 3, 1991. He stored her nude, handcuffed and bludgeoned body inside of a freezer for three years while her parents conducted a well-publicized and enduring search for her.
One of Famalaro’s attorneys, Leonard Gumlia, said Thursday that the lengthy appeals process ahead will likely limit what his client can say at the sentencing.
“He may or may not have a statement to make at the sentencing,” the defense attorney said. “If he chooses to speak, I doubt it will go into detail.”
But Gumlia said Famalaro has always had things to say to the Hubers.
“I’ve known for a long time that he would like to tell them he is sorry,” Gumlia said. “He’s always wanted to do it and has asked how. But there is no way to legally do it in a way that does not harm his interests. Anything he says about admissions and facts can help kill him.”
Until Famalaro’s formal sentencing, the Hubers said they plan to resume their lives secure in the knowledge that the trial is behind them and the outcome the one they prayed for.
“We finally crossed over the hurdle,” Dennis Huber said. “It’s a big weight off of our shoulders, but it’s definitely not a celebration because the consequences to [Famalaro] are pretty bad. But it’s a big thing to have behind us.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher Evans, who prosecuted the case, said the parents conducted themselves admirably throughout the trial and left an impression.
“They just had such dignity and spirit throughout this that I won’t soon forget them,” Evans said. “They help explain why everyone who knew Denise Huber was so impressed with her.”