Pure Land is the story of the most brutal murder in the history of Grand Canyon. But it is also the story of how McGivney’s quest to investigate the victim’s life and death wound up guiding the author through her own life-threatening crisis. On this journey stretching from the southern tip of Japan to the bottom of Grand Canyon, and into the ugliest aspects of human behavior, Pure Land offers proof of the healing power of nature and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Where It All Began

What started as an assignment turned into a personal journey that changed Annette McGivney’s life forever.

Find out how an investigative story for Backpacker Magazine turned into a project to help survivors of family violence heal in nature.

Grand Canyon Homicide

Tomomi Hanamure, a Japanese citizen, was killed on May 8, 2006. Her killer was 18-year old Havasupai named Randy Redtail Wescogame who had a criminal history and drug addiction. It was the most brutal murder ever recorded in Grand Canyon’s history.


Annette McGivney covered the tragedy for Backpacker magazine where she is Southwest Editor and she wrote an award-winning article that received more reader mail than any story in the last decade. (See the published article here.)

Personal Discovery

McGivney could not let go of the story. McGivney felt a bond with Hanamure over their love for nature, and also had a connection to Wescogame. McGivney finds that Wescogame had experienced abuse and neglect as a child which unexpectedly triggered long-buried memories about her own violent child abuse. This discovery offered an opportunity to McGivney to confront her past, but it was only her deep connection to nature that allowed McGivney to heal.

Writing Pure Land

McGivney eventually compiled her investigative and personal findings into Pure Land, a story of how two women in search of their true nature found transcendence in the West’s most spectacular landscapes. It is also a tale of how child abuse leads to violence and destroys lives. And it is, ultimately, a story of healing.

From Paper to Reality

McGivney wondered how her experiences can be transformed to address the national crisis that is child abuse and neglect. Due to her lifelong connection to nature, McGivney thought it best to give opportunities to children and adolescents who survive family violence to experience the healing power of nature themselves. This mission gained momentum and soon turned into the Healing Lands Project.


More about Pure Land

Want to read more about the book that started it all?