Search yields ‘Items of intrigue,’ no human remains

Monday, June 26, 2000

(near Magdalena, NM) One thing appears certain following a two-day-long, extensive search for the remains of Girly Chew Hossencofft west of Magdalena. Her body was not found. That outcome alone may yield deflated headlines in other news sources. Not here. And for good reason…

View search photos

At the end of this particular search, the attention focussed squarely on the bottom of a mine shaft. The shaft is located near the site where Girly’s bloodstained clothing was found along Highway-60 last September.

Girly’s estranged husband, Diazien Hossencofft, and his friend Linda Henning have been charged with Girly’s murder.

According to Albuquerque Police Detective John Walsh, investigators exploring the mine Sunday discovered “remains (that) appear to be animal in nature.” But that’s not all. Walsh added that investigators also found “a couple of other items of intrigue to us that we’ll be taking a closer look at.”

When asked if the “items of intrigue” might be Girly’s missing purse, ring or bracelet, Walsh responded, “What I’m not able to go into is the intricacies of exactly what has been discovered.” As for the apparent animal remains, Walsh said that they will likely be taken to the Anthropology Department at the University of New Mexico for examination.

An Albuquerque man named Bill Miller is know to have hunted in the Magdalena area.

According to court documents, Miller told a Special Grand Jury that Diazien Hossencofft twice asked him to help kill Girly. Miller has not been charged in this case. His lawyer says Miller had nothing to do with Girly’s disappearance or fate. But Miller has been a focal point of the investigation. According to one of several search warrants concerning Miller’s property, investigators have also found magazines which address militia and survival activies.

Whatever searchers found at the bottom of a mine shaft, it caught the attention of three cadaver dogs.

The large scale search started just after eight o’clock Saturday morning. Following an initial briefing by Albuquerque Police Sergeant Damon Faye at a picnic area along Highway 60, about 80-searchers deployed to a variety of areas on the Cat Mountain Ranch. Two specially-equipped helicopters and a plane searched from the air. This search covered between ten and twelve square miles.

A key moment came Saturday afternoon. Three of the four cadaver dogs reacted to a scent coming from a very old mine. There are seemingly countless abandoned mines throughout the search area. But this would be the only one to get such a reaction from the dogs. A cadaver dog named Brenda pawed at the ground; her particular signal for smelling flesh or bone. Soon, a team of specially trained Albuquerque Fighters was flown in aboard KOAT-TV’s Chopper 7. The team’s mission would be to “shore-up” the mine (making it safe for entry) and explore it. That would require most of Sunday.

Mine shafts can be deadly. Especially old ones. In New Mexico, it’s not uncommon to hear reports that someone was injured or killed after falling into a mine shaft. The Albuquerque Firefighters preparing to enter a dilapidated mine on the Cat Mountain Ranch the morning of Sunday, June 25 knew that all too well. They began their operation at 8:30 in the morning. It would end more than six hours later.

First, they had to make the mine safe for entering. The meticulous safety effort continued throughout the descent. Shoring-up appeared to involve the placing of narrow wooden planks inside the mine that would be secured to offer additional support to the structure. The shaft’s entry is shaped roughly like a square, a hole approximately five feet by three feet. The depth appeared to be between twenty and thirty-five feet. One at a time, a member of the team would eventually be lowered into the mine for a solo job. Each person would take a shift inside the darkness to remove the loosely packed debris that cluttered the length of the shaft. Lots of debris. Huge, flat pieces of what appeared to be severely rusted tin or metal. Smaller pieces, too. Most of it bent or twisted.

The largest pieces appeared to be around ten feet long and up to three feet wide. These are very general estimates. The removal of this type of debris lasted until the final moment of the operation. Throughout this time, what appeared to be five gallon white buckets were occasionally lowered into the mine by rope, and then lifted out. At times, a forensics worker poured what seemed to be a clear liquid into the bucket.

“Hendricks! Want to come out?,” a man peering down into the mine yelled out. “Come on out, you hard worker. You’ve been down there for about an hour,” he continued. Less than ten minutes later, the team reached the bottom of the shaft.
Investigators have not indicated the size of what appeared to be a dead animal found at the bottom of the mine. It would be difficult for any medium or large sized animal to find its way to the bottom of that shaft. That’s IF all of the debris stuffed into the shaft was there BEFORE the animal arrived on the scene.

Girly Chew Hossencofft’s bloodied clothing was found the day after her September 9, 1999 disappearance. Now more than nine months later–and about a mile from where her clothes were discovered–investigators have found what appears to the remains of a dead animal and a “couple of other items of intrigue” at the bottom of a mine shaft.

The question that still hangs in the air, “Is her body nearby?”
Shortly after the mine search concluded, Detective Walsh stated, “I do foresee an imminent search to follow this one.”

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