California Woman Who Went Missing After Concert Found In Freezer Inside Rental Truck
The cold case of Denise Huber was cracked after a woman “felt a spirit pulling her" to a truck and wrote down the license plate number.
A woman returning home following a fun evening out seemingly vanished without a trace after breaking down on the side of a freeway. It would take several years of searching before a chance tip would shed light on what became one of Southern California’s most infamous cold case murders.
On June 2, 1991, Denise Huber, 23, attended a Morrissey concert in Inglewood. Driving home that evening around 2 a.m., she reportedly blew a rear tire on the Corona del Mar Freeway less than three miles from the Newport Beach home she shared with her parents, Dennis and Ione Huber.
Denise was never seen alive again.
Jack Archer, a now-retired Costa Mesa police detective who led the search for Denise, immediately suspected foul play. “She was a young girl that wasn’t in trouble, wasn’t into drugs, didn’t appear to be rebellious,” Archer said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “She wasn’t someone that would just take off for days at a time.”
Despite an extensive police investigation and an extraordinary effort by Dennis and Ione Huber to find their daughter, leads went nowhere and the case grew cold.
On July 9, 1994, over three years after Denise disappeared, a woman who purchased paint from John Joseph Famalaro at his home in Yavapai County, Arizona, grew suspicious about a 24-foot yellow rental Ryder truck in the driveway.
“She saw the truck and she told us that she felt a spirit pulling her to that truck,” Denise’s father, Dennis Huber, later recalled, the L.A. Times reported. “She felt so compelled she wrote down the license plate number.”
The woman passed the number along to a friend in law enforcement. Yavapai County sheriff’s deputies ran the truck’s license plate number and learned it had been reported stolen around six months earlier.
Deputies searching the Ryder truck on July 13, 1994, found a padlocked freezer inside the back of the vehicle. Once masking tape and the lock was removed and the freezer opened, investigators made the grisly discovery of Denise’s handcuffed, battered and nude body wrapped up in trash bags.
Investigators learned Famalaro had moved to Arizona from Laguna Hills, California, in the summer of 1992. At a warehouse Famalaro rented in the Southern California city, detectives found dried blood. Detectives theorized Famalaro murdered Denise with a nail remover at the facility where he worked and lived and then stored her body in the freezer, which he eventually transported to Arizona.
“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.”
In June 1997, Famalaro was convicted of Denise’s murder and a judge sentenced him to death. The now-66-year-old inmate remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison in California.
“The wound never heals,” Dennis Huber has said of his daughter’s murder, the Daily Pilot reported. “You just learn how to deal with it, and it doesn’t hurt quite as much as it did at first.”
“I can’t tell you how much I still miss Denise,” added the victim’s mother, Ione Huber. “I think of her every single day.”
For more on this case, stream ID’s Stolen Voices, Buried Secrets: “Cold As Ice” on discovery+.