Review by Tim McGivern
Pinnacle True Crime
In Albuquerque, the mere mention of Girly Chew Hossencofft's name inevitably evokes a reaction. Her story captured headlines in the local media, on and off, for years following her disappearance from a Northeast Heights apartment complex on Sept. 9, 1999. The next morning her bloodied clothes were found windswept along a desert highway near Magdalena, but her body has never been found.
Following the discovery, the dark forces and strange permutations behind her kidnapping and murder became the subject of what the TV news folks like to call continuous coverage. In fact, the ensuing murder trial of Linda Henning and plea bargain of Diazien Hossencofft became the catalyst for a number of national TV exposés, including “American Justice” on A&E, The History Channel's “Dead Reckoning,” a two week run of Henning's trial on Court , and a one-hour “Dateline” NBC episode.
Henning was sentenced to life in prison for her alleged role in Girly's kidnapping and murder. She faced a possible death sentence, remarkably, considering the victim's body had yet to be found. Her lover, Girly's ex-husband Diazien Hossencofft, also received a life sentence after he reached a deal with prosecutors that promised to transfer him to a Wyoming federal prison, where he is serving a life sentence.
The story, though, has never come to its end. To this day, the location of Girly's body remains a mystery. Henning holds steadfast to her innocence and Diazien Hossencofft pleaded guilty to planning the murder and kidnapping of his ex-wife, but claims another man, Bill Miller, committed the crimes. Miller eventually pleaded no contest to tampering with evidence and received a sentence of 10-months supervised probation on Oct. 2, 2003. He remains a free man in Albuquerque.
Local TV newsman Mark Horner began covering the story in October 1999 and became so journalistically and personally involved in the case, he devoted a website to expand his coverage beyond what was reported in the local media. Horner devoted countless hours of his spare time to chronicle the work of search crews and investigators, as well as interview acquaintances of Henning and Hossencofft. Now, after nearly five years of research, he has published the definitive true crime treatise, 414-pages all told, devoted to the affair.
Horner's book, September Sacrifice, is not Truman Capote-style storytelling, however, where an actual event is boosted by imaginary scenes and dialogue. It is instead a thoroughly researched account of the tragedy from all angles. The details, in fact, are so meticulously represented and the chronology is so detailed that the truth, one believes, must lie somewhere in its pages. But the question—Where is Girly's body?—still gnaws at you to the bitter end.
What will fascinate readers are the familiar settings (the infamous Judge John Brennan's courtroom, for example) where the story takes place in and around Albuquerque, and the commitment of local prosecutors, forensic investigators and search crews who dedicated endless hours to cracking the case, but could never locate Girly's elusive corpse. Then there are the numerous wayward characters, such as UFO enthusiasts and Internet chat room travelers, that in their own mixed-up ways play supporting roles in the drama. To try and itemize these details here would be a disservice to the painstaking descriptions wrought out in Horner's book. In sum, it's a story from the prologue on that carries the constant refrain in the reader's consciousness—you can't make this stuff up.
At the center of the story is Diazien Hossencofft, described as a shrewd predator and cunning con man that could size up a person's interests in 30 seconds and exploit those interests for his personal gain. The deception and sheer fantasy that Hossencofft brazenly used to influence others in his schemes is beyond anything even Hollywood could come up with. He passed himself off as a geneticist who would inject youth serum in the veins of unsuspecting wealthy women that, in turn, enriched him with tens of thousands of dollars for his services. And that's just one of many examples. It was his prowess as an alien conspirator that attracted Henning, a UFO enthusiast, that led to her still somewhat cloudy role in the kidnapping and death of Girly, who from beginning to end appears as a victim of domestic abuse that, despite her survival instincts, could not escape her own foretold death.
For his part, Horner skillfully compiles facts and recites dialogue from thousands of pages of police supplemental files, court transcripts, and personal interviews that he obtained from people associated with Hossencofft—some that discovered Horner's website and came forward with exclusive information. Names appear that will surprise even the most obsessive followers of the case, such as high profile characters that Diazien encountered while serving time in New Mexico, which explains his eagerness to plea bargain a trip to Wyoming.
In the end, September Sacrifice is not a tale of morbid fascination, but a tragic, almost inconceivable, telling of a crime that will forever become a part of local lore and perhaps some day lead to the remains of Girly Chew. However, for readers, it's not the kind of subject matter that will leave you resting in peace.
While readers of this book will certainly get a comprehensive examination of the story, according to Horner the original manuscript ran 145,00 words, but the publisher's contract limited the scope to 100,000 words. You can go to www.markhorner.com for his personal anecdotes, exclusive photos and more information pertaining to the case. In January, Horner will participate in a signing and discussion at Bound to Be Read. Call the store or check the Alibi for more details.
Dawn Tripp, Georgia at Bookworks
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