Arrest made in Calif. beach house killings

After an eleven-month investigation, DNA evidence from a separate robbery case leads to a suspect

Published April 13, 2010 12:45AM (EDT)

A man suspected of stabbing a pregnant woman and her husband at their California beach house while their two young children were home was linked to the killings through DNA evidence collected in a separate robbery case, authorities said Monday.

Joshua Packer, 20, was taken into custody Sunday and booked for investigation of three counts of murder and two counts of robbery, capping an 11-month investigation of one of the most horrific homicides in years in Ventura County, sheriff's Deputy Chief Gary Pentis said.

Brock and Davina Husted, both 42, were repeatedly stabbed last May by an intruder wearing a motorcycle helmet who slipped into their Faria Beach home through an open sliding-glass door. Police considered it a triple homicide because Davina Husted was about five months pregnant.

The Husteds' 9-year-old son saw a man confront his mother in the kitchen and ran to his 11-year-old sister, who was asleep, authorities said. The children then ran to a neighbor's home and called 911. They were not hurt and now live with relatives.

"It's horrible for the children," sheriff's Capt. Ross Bonfiglio said.

Pentis believes the crime began as a robbery. He said items were taken from the couple's home but didn't provide further details.

"My personal opinion is this was not a random act," Pentis said. He wouldn't say whether Packer knew either Brock or Davina Husted. No other arrests were expected.

Packer's DNA was entered into a state database after he was arrested for investigation of robbery at a Santa Barbara gas station in September 2009. He is suspected of pulling a gun and ordering a clerk to the ground.

Packer posted $115,000 bail and was released from Santa Barbara County jail in late January.

Authorities put Packer under surveillance and seized items that police believe were in his possession on the night of the killings. Other evidence includes text messages and telephone conversations, Pentis said.

Packer has owned several motorcycles, Pentis said, but he would not say whether any were linked to the killings in the beachfront community along U.S. Highway 101 about 80 miles from Los Angeles.

Scott Husted, brother of Brock Husted, said the family was grateful for the hard work of detectives but added the arrest does not ease the loss.

"When two people and their baby are killed, there's no way it will ever make sense," he said.

Packer, a security guard, was being held in county jail on $2.2 million bail. It wasn't immediately known if he retained an attorney. Pentis believes Packer will be represented by a public defender.

Packer was scheduled to appear in court Thursday in Santa Barbara for a preliminary hearing in the robbery case.

Packer has had a recent rash of legal problems, according to court documents.

In Ventura County, he has been charged with misdemeanor battery stemming from an incident in November. A month later, he was charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run. Further details weren't immediately available.


Associated Press Writers Alicia Chang and Greg Risling in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

By Raquel Maria Dillon

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