DNA match may have cracked yearlong mystery in Ventura triple murder
VENTURA — Just as hope was beginning to wane in a yearlong investigation into a brutal triple-murder, a DNA sample in an unrelated crime may have revealed the man behind the fatal stabbing of a Ventura County man and his pregnant wife.
Joshua Graham Packer, 20, out on bail and awaiting arraignment for the armed robbery of a gas station in neighboring Santa Barbara County earlier this year, was arrested Sunday for the May 20, 2009 murders of Brock and Davina Husted and their unborn child.
Eleven months ago in the quiet gated beachfront community of Faria Beach, a stealthy late-night intruder entered the upscale home of Brock and Davina Husted. Apparently circumventing the highway-side electric security gates of this community south of the Santa Barbara County line midway between Carpinteria and Ventura, the unknown figure approached the oceanfront home from the sandy beach in front of the house, where he discovered an unlocked sliding glass door overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When the intruder departed, he left behind a scene of bloody death and gore as terrifying as any Hollywood slasher movie.
It was May 20, 2009 at 10:30 p.m. when, according to Ventura County sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Ross Bonfiglio, Brock and Davina, both 42, were repeatedly stabbed by an assailant who, it is theorized, had some knowledge of the neighborhood’s open beach access. The Husteds’ two children were in the home at the time, but were unhurt; their 9-year-old son was watching television while his 11-year-old sister slept in her upstairs bedroom. Evidence at the scene indicated that the suspect confronted Davina Husted — four months pregnant with her third child — in the kitchen. Brock, responding to the disturbance, approached from the master bedroom and was immediately attacked and suffered multiple deep stab wounds to the abdomen.
The 9-year-old boy, who ran to another room and did not witness the attack but soon discovered the bodies, awakened his sister and fled the home to a neighboring residence, from where an emergency 911 call was made. Responding sheriff’s units arrived quickly thereafter, established ground and aerial search perimeters, and notified neighbors of the attack. In spite of the aggressive use of available resources — from bloodhounds to helicopters — no suspect was found and no arrest was made.
With the only description of the perpetrator provided by the 9-year-old Husted boy who described his parents’ assailant as wearing a large black motorcycle helmet, homicide investigators have spent nearly a full year probing through forensic evidence found at the scene, researching any items possibly stolen from the home on the night of the attacks, and sifting through a multitude of telephone records to determine whether or not the killer had ever been in prior personal contact with his victims.
Until two weeks ago, all leads had led to frustration and the slow waning of the community’s hope for justice in the brutal murders.
Earlier this year, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s and city police investigated an armed robbery of an area gas station and arrested Packer, who had reportedly used a handgun to forcibly threaten the store clerk and to steal cash. He was arraigned and had been released on bail awaiting trial on those charges.
Ventura County Chief Deputy Gary Pentis reports that a DNA sample was taken from Packer while he was in custody in Santa Barbara under the terms of California’s recently expanded Proposition 69, which allows for the DNA sampling of arrestees booked on felony charges, a 2009 enhancement of the 2004 law originally providing for the sampling of only convicted felons. Neither Pentis nor Ventura County Sheriff Bob Brooks indicated the nature of the DNA match made of Packer, mentioning no specific DNA evidence found at the murder scene. Sheriff Brooks would only comment publicly that this “is one of the most tragic multiple homicides in the history of Ventura County.”
Following the positive DNA match with unspecified items found at the murder scene, Packer was arrested April 11 and booked into Ventura County Jail Monday morning on three murder counts and two counts of robbery. With bail set at $2.2 million, Packer stands accused of multiple murders involving robbery, and might be an eventual candidate for the death penalty.