Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Friday, June 3, 2016


            Let us not forget Denise Huber every year on November 22 and June 3. Keep their family in your prayers and remember how she lived on this earth: 

Denise Huber
(November 22, 1967 to June 3, 1991)

Denise Huber
(November 22, 1967 to June 3, 1991)

Nov. 22, 1967
Stanislaus County
California, USA
Jun. 3, 1991
Laguna Hills
Orange County
California, USA


Denise Anette Huber 23, graduated from the University of California-Irvine with a degree in Social Sciences.

She lived in Newport Beach, California and her family came from South Dakota in the early 60's before Denise was born, but she visited South Dakota often because her grandparents and other family lived there.

She was buried next to her Grandparents. Alvina Fischer Huber & Edward Gustuv Huber

Aug 1 1994
Aberdeen American Daily News
South Dakota
Denise Huber
Newport Beach, CA
The funeral for Denise Huber of Newport Beach, CA. will be at 11 am. Tuesday at First Reformed Church in Herreid, South Dakota. The Rev. Walter Shepard and the Rev. Terry Jorgenson will officiate.

Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery at Herreid, South Dakota with Larson's Funeral Home in Mobridge, South Dakota in charge of arrangements.

Closed-casket visitation will be one hour prior to the service on Tuesday at the Church.

She was 23 years old at the time of her abduction in 1991. The exact time and date of her death are not known for sure.

Denise Annette Huber was born Nov 22, 1967 in Modesto, California and attended grade school in several California cities. She attended junior high and high school at Los Angeles Baptist, graduating from Los Angeles Baptist High School in 1985. She furthered her education at Richland College in Dallas, Texas, and Covenant College in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1990 she received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from the University of California at Irvine. Following college she worked as a waitress and as a clerk in a department store while seeking employment in her career field.

Denise enjoyed traveling, music, reading and water skiing.

Survivors include her parents, a brother, her grandmother a niece and many, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Organist will be Barbara Saylor. Soloist will be Michelle Pudwill, and a duet will be sung by Sandra TerHaar and Geneli Halla.

Around 225 family members and friends filled the church to attend her services. At her mother's request and before the procession left for the cemetery dozen's of brightly colored ballons were released.

You Will Always Be Loved

Hubers Lay Loved One to Rest : Funeral: Three years after her slaying, the O.C. woman is buried in South Dakota with tears and happy memories.


Jeff Huber, brother of murder victim Denise Huber, makes a statement to the court before the judge sentences John Famalaro to death. At left, Carol Waxman with the Victim Witness Assistance Program holds a photo of Denise for the court to see. (Mindy Schauer - The Orange County) Re
HERREID, S.D. — When Dennis Huber saw his daughter's steel, white casket for the first time, the pain and anguish of the past three years came crashing down on him.

"The reality of it all was like having a double-barrel shotgun pointed right at my face," an emotional Huber said Tuesday as final preparations were being made for his daughter's funeral and burial Tuesday in this rural, Midwest farming community. "It was really rough."
In this town, where the Huber family has deep roots, more than 225 friends and relatives crowded into the tiny First Reformed Church to take part in a somber, 90-minute ceremony commemorating the life of murder victim Denise Huber.

"Everyone around here was touched by what happened to her," said Clarence O. Fjeldheim, a local farmer and mayor of Herreid, a community of 485 residents. "This is a small town and people are very close."

Tears flowed throughout the church while friends and relatives gave moving tributes to the 23-year-old Newport Beach woman, who was remembered for her gregarious personality, zest for life, passion for water skiing and traveling, fondness for dogs and frogs, and her religious faith.

Some mourners had to sit in the church basement, watching the service on a video monitor; others gathered outside under cloudy skies around another monitor set up near a large cottonwood tree.

Later, in the dense humidity and 80-degree heat, Denise Huber was buried next to her grandfather, Edward Huber, who farmed the flat, green prairies in this region and opened the city's first motel. She was especially close to him in life, family members said, as she will be in death.

"She thought so much of him and he thought so much of her, and now we believe they are in heaven together," Dennis Huber said.

He explained the burial spot simply: Denise "always enjoyed" visiting Herreid. "We really feel like we're home and among friends and family and that is very, very important to me," he said.

He and his wife, Ione, are moving late in August from Newport Beach to Bismarck, N.D., about 100 miles north of Herreid. They had planned the move before their daughter's body was found bludgeoned, handcuffed and stuffed in a freezer in Arizona three weeks ago. She was reported missing June 3, 1991, her abandoned car found with a flat tire on the Corona del Mar Freeway.

"I look at it as a new start and hopefully we can get away from some of the bad memories," Dennis Huber said of the move out of Orange County.

"We have a lot of support here and that will be good in the healing process," Ione Huber added. "We can leave with some resolve now."

The folks here have followed the case ever since Denise Huber disappeared. At the time, Herreid residents were shocked. But when they learned of how her body was found, they were horrified. Some talk about seeing the case reported on national television news shows. Others still collect newspaper articles about the case.

No one here was surprised at the turnout for the funeral. More would have come, they said, but they wanted to save seats for the Huber's large family, many of whom live here and others who journeyed from around the nation. It was a closed-casket service because of the condition of the body, which the family never viewed.

In many ways, the service was similar to a memorial held in Newport Beach July 23: with the family's pastor, the Rev. Walt Shepard, again leading the service, relatives giving eulogies and the congregation singing hymns.

A large collage of photographs of Denise from toddler to adult, which was displayed in Newport Beach, was propped on an easel outside the brown wood-framed church. People stopped and gazed at the pictures showing her with family and school friends.

Another large photograph of Denise as a smiling, young adult was at the front of the church, leaning against the casket.

"There were so many things that made Denise special. Her laughs, her smiles and sense of humor." said cousin Carrie Vandenburg, 24, of Seattle. "But I think the thing I loved most about Denise was she knew what was important to her."

Standing behind the casket adorned with several arrangements of red and white carnations, she spoke of her admiration for Denise's ability "to have fun" and her love of travel.

" . . . You couldn't help but love her. That's why this doesn't make any sense," she said. "I miss her terribly."

Another cousin, Rod Vandenburg, of Palm Springs described Denise as living "every day to the fullest. She always made me feel right at home with her." He talked about his daughter, who was born on the day Denise disappeared, and declared: "God gave us a true remembrance (of Denise). I'm sad that Denise is not with us anymore, but we have peace in knowing that she is in the hands of the Lord."

Costa Mesa Police Chief David L. Snowden delivered a moving tribute, bringing himself and many others to tears as he described how his officers treated Denise's disappearance as if it had happened to their own daughter.

"When I took the oath of police officer I really didn't know what to expect," said Snowden. "I expected the action, I expected to be beaten up and shot at, I expected people to throw things and call me names for writing tickets. But nobody ever prepared me for the hurt."

He spoke of having visited the grave of Sitting Bull in nearby Mobridge the previous evening, and how it caused him to reflect on life in California and South Dakota, as well as his profession.

"Sometimes I wonder why police officers die so young and retire so young, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a piece of their heart breaks every time a young person dies," Snowden said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"I didn't know three years ago that of all the travels that Denise has done, the longest travel she would have would be from the arms of her parents to here," he concluded. "I pray for Denise and I pray for her family and I pray to God this never happens to anybody again."

At a brief graveside ceremony, family members released multicolored balloons, watching them soar into the cloudy South Dakota sky.

After the burial, the Hubers invited friends and family for a potluck luncheon at the Herreid Community Center, which also doubles as the Skateland roller rink.

There, the parents spoke briefly to reporters.

They said they cherished the community support and are relying heavily on their religious faith.

"This is a process that is probably just beginning and we are going to have a lot more to deal with in the future," Ione Huber said.

The Hubers said they plan to attend the trial in Orange County of John J. Famalaro, who is accused of Denise's kidnaping and murder, and hope he gets the death penalty.

"I don't think I could ever begin to figure out why" Denise was killed, Dennis Huber said. "She was a beautiful, wonderful person who deserved to be on this world, but I guess God wanted her up in heaven more then He wanted her here."

Ione Huber agreed.

"I can't find words to describe her," she said. "She was just a beautiful person and she should not have had to leave us the way she did."

Denise's brother Jeff Huber expressed his anger.

"I'd love to confront (Famalaro) with my bare hands. And you can put that in quotes," said the 24-year-old Costa Mesa country-Western singer.

He said his sister's death "makes you appreciate your loved ones when you've got them. It makes you realize just how temporary life is."

A color file photo of Denise Huber on a trip to New Orleans.

'The wound never heals': 25 years after their daughter was killed, Denise Huber's parents say time helps — but only to an extent

July 1, 2016

Shortly after 2 a.m. on June 3, 1991, 23-year-old Denise Huber was driving home from a Morrissey concert in Inglewood when her car blew a tire on the 73 toll road.

She was just minutes from the Newport Beach house she shared with her parents.

Even while wearing the heels she'd donned for the concert, it should have been a relatively quick walk to a call box or even a nearby gas station where she could have asked for help.

But her parents, Dennis and Ione Huber, never heard from Denise that night. In the morning, they began calling her friends, asking where she could be.

That night, around 10 p.m., one of those friends found Denise's Honda still on the side of the freeway, unlocked, its battery drained from the emergency blinkers that had been left running. Denise was gone.

It would take three years — and what the Huber family to this day considers a miracle — before police would discover Denise's body.

During that time, her family placed a 6-by-30-foot banner on the roof of an apartment building overlooking the area where her abandoned car was discovered. It read "Have You Seen?" and included Huber's likeness, a physical description and the phone number for the Costa Mesa Police Department.

The parents went on television to share their story as they worried and waited for any shred of information.

Dennis especially threw himself into the pursuit.

"My car was like a rolling billboard with signs all over it," he said. "I looked. Every time I saw some girl with long brown hair, I'd want to see her face."

A poster board with dozens of pictures of the slain Denise Huber. It was displayed at a memorial service held in Huber’s memory in 1994 at the Mariner’s Church in Newport Beach.
(Aurelio Barrera / Los Angeles Times)
Authorities eventually came to believe that John Famalaro, a 34-year-old painter, had pulled up as Denise walked along the side of the freeway.

Famalaro sexually assaulted her and killed her by slamming a nail remover into Denise's skull more than 30 times in a Laguna Hills warehouse where he lived and ran his painting business.

Instead of disposing of the body, Famalaro kept it in a large freezer, even taking it with him when he moved to Arizona.

Famalaro was sentenced to death for the murder in 1997.

Now 59, Famalaro is awaiting the fulfillment of his sentence in San Quentin State Prison, but like other death row inmates in California, it's an open question whether the day of his execution will ever arrive.

Although the California Supreme Court upheld Famalaro's sentence in 2011, another appeal is pending, and it could take years to resolve.

But even if Famalaro's appeals concluded tomorrow, his punishment would still have to wait because California has no approved method to execute inmates. Capital punishment has essentially been on hold since 2006 because of a judge's ruling that the three-drug lethal injection used at the time could cause inhumane suffering.

"He'll die of old age in the prison, I believe, before he gets the death penalty," Dennis said.      

"And we'll probably die before he does," Ione added.

The couple have been married 52 years. Dennis is now 77 and Ione is 73.

Last month marked the 25th anniversary of Denise's death. Dennis and Ione say they've made peace with the fact that their daughter's killer may never actually face the ultimate penalty prescribed for him.

"It's done, I feel," Dennis said. "There's nothing more that can be done. It's up to the state to do something with him."

Speaking from their home on the bank of the Missouri River in South Dakota, the couple sound almost casual relaying details of the crime, except for the occasional twinge of pain revealed in their voices.

After all, they've spent 25 years talking about the tragedy, but the emotions can come back in an instant. Dennis said he still hurts deeply any time he sees a father-daughter relationship portrayed on TV.

"The wound never heals," he explained. "You just learn how to deal with it, and it doesn't hurt quite as much as it did at first."

Time helps, Ione said, but only to an extent.

"I can't tell you how much I still miss Denise," she said. "I think of her every single day."

I can't tell you how much I still miss Denise ... I think of her every single day. — Ione Huber

The couple agree that any pain they feel now pales in comparison to the arduous years in the early 1990s when they couldn't answer the heart-wrenching question: Was their daughter still alive?

At the time, the Hubers' desperate search struck a chord with the public. Denise's disappearance became one of the most famous mysteries in Orange County, and it remains one of the area's most infamous crimes.

From the outset, police had little to work with, according to Jack Archer, a now-retired Costa Mesa police detective who, with his partner, was assigned to lead the search for Denise.

Archer remembers the bare-bones crime scene on the side of the freeway — essentially an empty car. So the first step was to speak with Ione and Dennis, who'd reported Denise missing.

What they told Archer made him believe Denise hadn't simply absconded. Almost immediately he suspected she was the victim of a serious crime.

"She was a young girl that wasn't in trouble, wasn't into drugs, didn't appear to be rebellious," Archer said. "She wasn't someone that would just take off for days at a time."

Archer and his partner then conducted interview after interview with friends, co-workers, acquaintances, anyone who might have an idea where Denise had gone, but they came up dry.

Grasping for any break in the case, police staked out the freeway where Denise disappeared, identifying drivers by taking pictures of license plates and then sending them letters asking if they'd seen anything suspicious the night of June 2.

But the trail was cold. Even psychics called in by police couldn't point in a useful direction.

"All the leads that we had were exhausted," Archer said.

About a year into the case, Archer took a new assignment at the department, rotating back to patrol, leaving Denise's case behind.

The Hubers believe that July 13, 1994 — more than three years after Denise disappeared — is a day of divine intervention.

On that day, sheriff's deputies in Yavapai County, Ariz., searched a 24-foot rental truck parked in the driveway of Famalaro's home. A woman who bought paint from Famalaro had seen the truck and thought it suspicious enough to alert police.

"She saw the truck and she told us that she felt a spirit pulling her to that truck," Dennis said. "She felt so compelled she wrote down the license plate number."

When Yavapai County deputies ran the plate number, they discovered that the vehicle had been reported stolen in Orange County six months earlier.

Court documents say sheriff's deputies thought they'd come upon a mobile drug lab when they discovered a power cord running to a padlocked freezer sealed with masking tape in the back of the truck.

But when a locksmith opened the freezer, deputies were met with a foul smell.

Inside, wrapped in layers of black trash bags, was Denise's naked body.

The next day, deputies served a search warrant on Famalaro's home, where they found paperwork for a warehouse Famalaro had rented in Laguna Hills. Authorities believe he lived in and ran a painting business at the warehouse until he moved to Arizona in the summer of 1992.

In California, Archer was called back into the investigation to check on the Laguna Hills facility.

According to Archer, a witness there told police that the warehouse had to be cleaned after Famalaro moved out. One spot in particular was covered in what they thought was red paint.
The substance had been washed away by the time police entered the picture, but Archer decided to have a crew cut into the wall near where the stain had been.

"As soon as they flipped over the 2-by-4 on the bottom of the wall there was dried blood," Archer said.

Police soon theorized that Famalaro took Denise to the warehouse after kidnapping her from the side of the freeway. There, he raped her and crushed in her skull with the nail puller, leaving behind a pool of blood.

The body, however, he couldn't leave behind, Archer said.

In Famalaro's Arizona house, investigators found boxes and boxes of trash, Archer said. The suspect had saved everything from hundreds of almost-empty paint cans to soda receipts from Jack-in-the-Box, the former detective said.

"He just could not throw anything away, and that's what led to him getting caught.... He's a hoarder," Archer said. "If he would've gotten rid of the body in the middle of the desert on the way to Arizona, we might've never solved the case."

Dennis said he rarely thinks of Famalaro these days, but Ione said she does occasionally. She still has a question for the man convicted of killing her daughter:


Why did Famalaro choose Huber to be raped and bludgeoned to death? Why did he keep Denise's body hidden, leaving her parents with false hope that she might still be alive?

The Hubers know Famalaro heard their pleas for answers. In his Arizona home, police found newspaper articles about his crime and a taped recording of one of their appearances on TV asking for help finding Denise.

"To be so cruel and so cold that he let us suffer like that," Ione said, trailing off without finishing her sentence.

Even 25 years later, she doesn't expect she'll get an answer.

Jeremiah Dobruck, jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

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