(Albuquerque) Andrew Chew has just spent the better part of three days travelling from his home in Malaysia to Albuquerque.Unlike the time I met him at the airport here in November of 1999, he is not alone. This time he arrives with his wife, June. The two were married earlier this year. However, these newlyweds are on anything but a honeymoon. This trip carries a sense of duty.
Mr. Chew is here to testify in a high-profile murder case. His older sister, Girly Chew Hossencofft, was kidnapped and murdered on September 9,1999. While her estranged husband is already convicted for the crime, police say he did not act alone. 49-year-old Linda Henning is currently on trial for the murder and numerous other crimes.
In addition to testifying, the 31-year-old Chew hopes to eventually learn where his sister’s remains are located. Her body has never been found. Chew says his parents continue to hold out hope that Girly’s remains will be returned to Malaysia one day.
The prosecution’s progress through its lengthy list of witnesses has moved much faster than predicted. Only one State’s witness has yet to testify; Andrew Chew. He’s expected to take the stand when court resumes Tuesday morning (Monday is a holiday).
Trace Evidence, DNA and a Familiar Bracelet
Most of Friday’s testimony focussed on forensic evidence, namely trace evidence and DNA.
Catherine Dickey told the court that this is one of the biggest DNA cases in the history of the Albuquerque Police Department. Dickey should know; she did much of the work.
Without a body, investigators took several steps to establish Girly Chew Hossencofft’s DNA (Click photo for larger view). Without a body, Dickey said the crime lab went the extra
mile to identify Ms. Hossencofft’s DNA. Hair was taken from Ms. Hossencofft’s hairbrush. A wad of hair was taken from her bathroom trash can (investigators say Girly had likely removed the hair from a hairbrush). Dickey said DNA samples were also taken from a toothbrush which Girly kept at work.
And, finally, the most challenging source of DNA: Girly’s parents. The mother and father live in Malaysia. A legal attache in Singapore helped obtain the DNA samples. Swabs were used to remove DNA from inside each parent’s mouth. However, Dickey said that that’s when she learned that DNA does not travel well from very humid countries. As a result, investigators followed-up by obtaining hairs from each parent.
Chew Shing Kheng (left) and Chin Geok Wan are the parents of the late Girly Chew Hossencofft.
Girly Chew Hossencofft enjoying a winter moment in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.
Donna Arbogast of the Albuquerque Police Department’s crime lab analysed much of the trace evidence in this case. She told the court that a hair found on the carpet in Ms. Hossencofft’s apartment is “consistent with” defendant Linda Henning’s hair. However, under cross-examination by defense attorney Gary Mitchell, Arbogast said that it is not possible to say that the hair definitely came from a specific individual. It is only possible to exclude individuals.
Friday’s testimony concluded with testimony from Ms. Hossencofft’s karate instructor, Jesse Lucero. Lucero explained that Girly enrolled in his martial arts class in the months leading up to her disappearance. He said she specifically wanted to learn how to defend herself against two or more attackers. At first, she was a bit timid. But Lucero says Girly soon proved to be a determined and disciplined student, resolved to learn self-defense.
Lucero also testified that he recognised a piece of evidence in this case; a bracelet. He stated that he recalls Ms. Hossencofft wearing the bracelet to karate class in July of 1999 and on other days, too. This is particularly interesting because, earlier in this trial, Felissa Garcia Kelley testified that Diazien Hossencofft gave her the bracelet in January of 1999. Kelley was Mr. Hossencofft’s divorce attorney. She says she received the bracelet as a form of payment.
The defense is expected to call Mr. Hossencofft to testify Tuesday…after Andrew Chew testifies for the prosecution.
For more information on Friday’s DNA and Trace Evidence testimony, refer to the
excellent article in Saturday’s Albuquerque Tribune.