In his engrossing true-crime thriller, September Sacrifice, Mark Horner reconstructs the extraordinary details of Girly Chew’s murder case in Albuquerque, New Mexico, beginning with her disappearance on September 9, 1999, through the murder trials of her estranged husband and his girlfriend, Linda Henning, portions of which were rebroadcast on Court TV recently. Doubtless, such a bizarre and fiendish plot could only have originated from the bowels of some hellish, inhuman creature.
The devil in this case is Diazien Hossencofft: a cartoon name for a counterfeit caricature born Armand Chavez, who alternately represents himself as a geneticist, a doctor, and an inventor, among other concocted claims, shifting his shape and affecting his accent to suit his victims. How ironic, therefore, that his cohort in horror was a woman obsessed with reptilians: mythical alien beings who morph from human to reptile form. The name “Hossencofft” conjures up the Looney Tunes episode where Bugs Bunny attempts to escape from the witch (with all the bobby pins flying out of her hair) who hankers to make him into hasenpfeffer. However, Hossencofft lacks even the plump witch’s charm, and proves to be yet another cookie-cutter malignant narcissist, but with a decidedly more macabre twist. I will hereafter refer to him by his birth name out of expedience, and because I know that would annoy him.
In Horner’s well-researched work, we discover a number of textbook narcissist traits in Chavez’s modus operandi. Chavez, like Peterson, conducts a marathon academic tour that includes familiar locations like The College of Notre Dame in San Francisco and the University of Utah, where he was subsequently ejected from its medical school for stealing laboratory supplies. Before fraudulently entering the program at UU, Chavez abandoned his first wife, Rosemary, and his child in northern California. Horner presents anecdotal evidence that Chavez at least once attempted murder by poisoning a “client” with arsenic, and that he had warned his wife that if he ever killed anyone, the body would never be found. Chavez sought his marks and sources with the preferred “N” method: through personal ads posted on the Internet and in magazines.
Chavez was a serial “romantic” predator, with concurrent cyber relationships, many of which developed into financial scams. One of the lovers he met on the Internet later relayed that Chavez abused and neglected his and Girly’s “adopted” son, Demetri, who was actually his biological child with a Japanese woman from Canada he had seduced, and whom he duped into giving him the baby with a fantastic yarn about an incurable genetic abnormality his son possessed that only he could treat.
Yes, the hits just keep on coming.
Besides being a pathological liar and incurable egomaniac, Chavez was smitten by the love of money that was the root of his evil. His motive for murdering Girly was a combination of wounded pride and greed. He demonstrated the ultimate selfishness by laying claim on a child he didn’t want or love (and, in fact, terrorized), but would rather have seen dead than grant Girly custody. Fortunately, Demetri was only a toddler at the time, and was adopted before his father fled New Mexico with another cyber sweetheart from South Carolina, escaping further victimization and chaos, the hallmarks of Chavez’s existence.
Girly Chew was the perfect wife: hard working, submissive, domestic, spiritually centered, and accommodating, with a naïve and cheerful outlook and notable lack of cynicism or suspicion. When she came from Malaysia to New Mexico to marry her “successful American doctor” pen pal, her parents were understandably concerned. Typical of narcissists, Chavez removed Girly from the familiar comfort of her home and family, and kept her isolated and uninformed throughout their marriage. When she eventually discovered his infidelities, he reacted with sudden violence, nearly strangling her before a neighbor intervened. His second attempt was predictably more vicious, instigating a police report, a restraining order and a divorce suit. At that point, Girly should have returned to Malaysia. Instead, she hid in a small apartment she hoped Chavez would not discover, and attended karate classes. Let this be a lesson to victims of this kind of anti-social behavior: get as far away as possible from that maniac, unless you are psychologically and literally armed to shoot him between the eyes the next time you see him lurking around your car with a crowbar. If he is motivated to kill you, he’ll find a way.
At first, after Girly’s disappearance, Chavez was investigated and arrested by the FBI for making threats across state lines via a traceable telephone in South Carolina. The feds dropped the charges when New Mexico indicted him for first-degree murder and locked him up in the Bernalillo County Jail, populated by Hispanic gang members and jaded thugs who laughed at Chavez’s ostentatious resume and nasally voice and threatened his puny life. Chavez eventually agreed to a plea bargain where he admitted to Girly’s murder in exchange for a transfer to a prison in Wyoming, even though investigators had not found Girly’s remains. Meanwhile, the other accused conspirators in the murder, Linda Henning and Bill Miller, awaited their fate. In an ill-advised move, Henning’s lawyer brought Chavez back to New Mexico to testify for the defense in her trial. Some of us saw Chavez/Hossencofft on the witness stand, his back to the judge and jury, looking over his shoulder as he snarled, in his Dexter’s Laboratory voice, that he planted Henning’s blood at Girly’s apartment to taint the evidence. Needless to say, his story was as ludicrous as his charade, and ultimately Henning was convicted.
Connoisseurs of true crime and students of narcissism will not be disappointed in September Sacrifice. It is more fascinating than any three expensive Reganbook hardbacks combined, and for a fraction of the price. Horner distills the intricate details of the years-long investigation of Girly’s murder, the result of dedicated law enforcement, a philosophical district attorney, and complex forensic science, and exposes the myriad layers of Chavez’s convoluted parallel life of deception and debauchery. There are many unanswered questions and loose ends that may never be resolved, but true crime stories about malignant reptiles like Hossencofft defy neat packaging. There are many interesting facts that merit discussion and further investigation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some day they connect Chavez to other unsolved homicides.
Excellent book – Highly recommended!