On June 3, 1991, Denise Huber hopped into her silver-blue Honda to pick up her friend, Rob Calvert, for a Morrissey concert later that evening. For Calvert, it was a "date" he hoped might end in romance. For Denise, it was a platonic night out that would, within just a few hours, end in tragedy: While Calvert would return to his home sometime after 1:30 A.M., Denise would never complete the same trip.
Denise Huber lived with her parents in Orange County, working two part-time jobs until she could afford her own place. But at some point during her drive home, one of Denise’s back tires blew out, and she pulled over to get help. Three days later, her Honda was found—still parked on the shoulder, still flashing its emergency lights—with no sign of Denise herself.
It took three years and one intuitive Arizonian to finally solve the mystery of Denise’s disappearance: After a bizarre business transaction with John Famalaro—a 34-year-old paint contractor new to Phoenix—Elaine Canalia reported him to the local police. Something about his rental truck, she later told the Los Angeles Times, “seemed so out of place.” Her suspicion proved to be more than simple paranoia when, shortly thereafter, police discovered Denise Huber’s dead body. Handcuffed and beaten, it had been crammed inside a freezer, which was placed in the back of that very same truck.
Police determined that John Famalaro drove past Denise’s car on that fateful night in June of 1991. Reeling from a series of failed relationships but yearning for romance, Famalaro seized upon the opportunity to “help” her. Instead, he took Denise to a warehouse, raped her, bludgeoned her to death, and then stored her body inside a padlocked freezer. Famalaro had a penchant for hoarding things—police believed that other “trophies” sat among the hundreds of old paint cans in his home—and he couldn’t bring himself to part with his latest victim. When he moved from California to Arizona, Famalaro brought Denise’s frozen body with him.
John Famalaro was tried in California for his crimes—some of the most notorious in Orange County history—and given the death penalty in 1997. Despite multiple appeals, he remains on death row to this day, with no execution date in sight.
Don Lasseter’s book Cold Storage tells the chilling story of Denise Huber’s murder, the loved ones who fought for her justice, and the monster who killed her. The excerpt below takes readers to the pivotal day in which Elaine Canalia pointed police toward John Famalaro—and the freezer sitting in his truck.
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