The California Supreme Court has confirmed the death penalty for John Famalaro, the phony cop convicted of killing Denise Huber, who disappeared on her way home to Newport Beach from a Morrissey concert in 1991, and keeping the 23-year-old's body in cold storage until it was discovered in Arizona three years later.
The justices decided unanimously that
60 54-year-old Famalaro received a fair trial on his way to conviction in Orange County Superior Court in 1997.
The Orange County Register has the scoop on the latest ruling.
Famalaro's appellate court attorneys tried to argue he was denied a fair trial due to intense media attention and that hearings should have been moved out of Orange County because pre-trial publicity tainted the jury pool. Justices did not buy it, writing in their 56-page decision that Judge John J. Ryan conducted a fair jury selection and trial.
The killer's legal team must now appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that could take years to resolve. But it's not like Famalaro would have been quickly put to death anyway as California has imposed an informal moratorium on capital punishment while the legality of lethal injections is being argued. So, for at least the next several years, Famalaro will remain on death row at San Quentin.
Grad student Huber, a friend and a friend of that friend had seen Morrissey at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood the warm summer night of June 2, 1991, before having a bite at El Paso Cantina in Long Beach.
After dropping her friend off at his Huntington Beach home around 2 a.m., Huber headed home. That was the last time anyone saw her. Her blue 1984 Honda Accord was found abandoned with a flat tire on the connector between the 405 freeway and Route 73, south of Bear Street in Costa Mesa.
She remained missing for three years, something locals were reminded of thanks to a painted portrait of the pretty young woman next to a plea for anonymous tips that were splashed on a wall facing the freeway connector.
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Elaine Court, the owner of a paint shop in Prescott, Ariz., arranged to buy paint from Famalaro in 1994. Pulling up to Famalaro's home, Court found it odd that a Ryder truck was parked in the driveway, so odd that she called the local police. Officers arrived, looked inside the back of the truck and found a freezer. Huber's body was inside.
Detectives later found guns and handcuffs strewn about Famalaro's home. A box marked "X-Mas decorations" contained a bloody hammer and nail puller. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Patrol shirt was found inside a closet. He likely wore that as he offered stranded motorist Huber "aide" the night he took her.
Garden Grove author Dan Lasseter penned the true crime book Cold Storage about the case. It was also the subject of the Jan. 17 premiere episode of Investigation Discovery's Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets: