Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cross-Dressing California Man Caught Cooking his Wife

Frederick Joseph Hengl

Frederick Joseph Hengl

Oceanside couple Frederick Joseph Hengl, 68, and his wife Anna-Marie Faris, 73, weren’t the perfect neighbors. She seemed mentally disturbed and rarely bathed. He was known around North Ditmar Street as a cross-dresser and general odd bird. When police were finally called in to investigate the overpowering stench emanating from their home, no one expected a scene so macabre.

Police performing a welfare check on Faris arrived to find a locked door and no answer to their knocks, so they searched the perimeter before entering through a window. They found three separate pans of meat cooking on the stove. A neighbor told officers that he had seen Hengl scoot out the front door when the police were checking around back. Officers ultimately found Hengl at a local bar.

After questioning Hengl, police soon concluded that the meat in the kitchen was his wife’s dismembered body. A search of the home turned up Faris’ head stuffed in the freezer. They found a meat-grinder “currently in use,” according to prosecutor Katherine Flaherty, “They also found a work area set up in the bathroom, with saws, a boning knife and other cutting instruments.”

At his arraignment last week, Hengl pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, willful cruelty to an elder, and committing an unlawful act with human remains. If convicted, Hengl is facing 25 years to life in prison. Vista Superior Court Judge J. Marshall Hockett set Hengl’s bail at $5 million. He remains in custody.

Neighbors reported that they had not seen Faris for weeks before Hengl’s arrest. Her absence was noticed because she had been behaving erratically in the previous months — at times exposing herself in public with her pants around her ankles, and walking around with a butcher’s knife exclaiming to passersby such quasi-religious nonsense as “God will smite you.”

Hengl, who previously worked at a local Home Depot, was infamous for wearing women’s clothes and hot-pink lipstick in his everyday life. One Oceanside neighbor recalled Hengl sporting a purple gown, a purse, pearl necklace and earrings over the summer.

Police said that County Adult Protective Services had been called to the residence at least once prior to the murder.

Incredibly, Hengl is not the first California man caught cooking his wife’s remains. David Viens was convicted earlier this year for killing and then slow-cooking his wife Dawn for days at a restaurant where he was the chef.

On the bright side, neither man was thought to have eaten any part of the dead spouse. Viens cooked his wife to get rid of evidence — and while Hengl’s motives are unclear at this writing, prosecutor Flaherty said police found no evidence of cannibalism in this more recent case.

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