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Court TV

Prosecutor: N.M. defendant claimed she ate victim's flesh

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(Court TV) -- A New Mexico prosecutor claims that fashion designer Linda Henning told at least four people that she consumed the flesh of Girly Chew Hossencofft, a bank teller missing since 1999 and presumed dead.

The claim, made in court papers filed last week, caused a bit of a media stir in Albuquerque and led Henning's lawyer to wonder aloud whether the bizarre case was getting to prosecutor Paul Spiers.

Court TV broadcast the trial in December, including the chilling, matter-of-fact testimony of Hossencofft's husband that he engineered the murder. Diazien Hossencofft expressed his hope that his 36-year-old wife, who planned to divorce him, suffered at the hands of her killer but insisted Henning played no role.

A jury convicted Henning of first-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges in October. She faces 30 years to life in prison at a minimum, but could get 88 years to life, when she is sentenced inlater this monthor in February.

Judge W. John Brennan all but promised Henning she will get the minimum if she comes clean about the crime and tells the court what became of Girly Chew's body. It was in a pre-sentencing memorandum filed last week that Spiers disclosed that investigators had evidence about Girly Chew's gruesome fate prior to the trial.

"During the course of the case's investigation, it was reported by more than one individual that the defendant had made statements that she had actually consumed the flesh of Girly Chew Hossencofft and that as a consequence her remains and body would never be recovered by authorities," Spiers wrote in the memorandum.

The full text of the memorandum was not immediately available, but Spiers told on Monday that the paragraph was just one in a lengthy document. Spiers said that Henning allegedly told two inmates and two nurse practitioners that she consumed Girly Chew's flesh, but he decided not to present the evidence because of its nature and potential to further sensationalize an already bizarre case.

"We took the position that we would attempt to keep the trial as simple as possible and would avoid as much sensationalism as possible," Spiers said. "It really didn't go to the actual murder itself."

Spiers said it is possible that Diazien Hossencofft and Henning, who believed the human race was controlled by reptilian alien masters, may have drank some of Chew's blood or consumed flesh during a ritual. Diazien Hossencofft and Henning became lovers after meeting during the summer of 1999 at a seminar led by controversial writer David Icke.

"It is just my thinking and it's based on the case. I don't think they ate the entire body," Spiers said.

Henning got so upset after reading about the claim that she called an Albuquerque TV station. Her lawyer, Gary Mitchell, said Monday that he thinks Spiers is going too far in an effort to get Brennan to throw the book at a defendant who cannot even apply for parole until she is nearly 80 years old.

"In a word, it's nonsense," Mitchell said of the cannibalism claim. "There is no evidence of that.It comes from the mind of the prosecutor, and his imagination. He's obsessed with this case. He ought to consider some counseling for it."

Spiers said he was a "little surprised" at the stir caused by that one passage in his pre-sentencing memo. He said overall the memo supports the state's position that Henning who avoided the death penalty needs to remain in prison for the rest of her days.

"From our perspective, she is a terrible rehabilitation candidate," Spiers said.

Henning was convicted despite Diazien Hossencofft's testimony that she played no role in the killing. He tried unsuccessfully to explain the presence of Henning's blood in Girly Chew's apartment by claiming that he took a vial of Henning's blood from his refrigerator and mixed it with bleach in an effort to contaminate the crime scene.

A vial of another woman's blood was selected first, but it broke in Hossencofft's pocket when he sat in Henning's car, according to his testimony.

Hossencofft, who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from women in exchange for vitamin shots they thought were a cancer cure, pointed the finger at reputed militia member Bill Miller as Girly Chew's real killer.

Miller, however, only faces charges of evidence tampering when he goes on trial later this year. Diazien Hossencofft pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and is serving life in a Wyoming prison.

Henning's former boyfriend, Stephen Zachary of New York, called the cannibalism claim "preposterous" and charged that Spiers is trying to make sure Henning does not get the minimum sentence.

Brennan ordered a psychiatric examination of Henning, whom Zachary believes may have been duped, drugged or brain-washed by Diazien Hossencofft. Henning has not received a date for her sentencing yet.

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