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In baby-snatching case, conflicting stories on who killed pregnant woman

Brooke Crews testifies Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Cass County District Court in Fargo, during William Hoehn’s trial. He's accused of conspiring to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old whose baby was cut from her womb. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

FARGO — The trial of William Hoehn on conspiracy to commit murder was hit with two bombshells Tuesday, Sept. 25.

The first landed Tuesday morning, when his alleged co-conspirator and ex-girlfriend, Brooke Crews, testified that Hoehn strangled Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, as she lay bleeding on the floor of the couple’s bathroom.

The second hit late Tuesday afternoon, when lawyers addressed newly obtained information from Jennifer Robinson, a female inmate Crews had conversations with about five months ago. Robinson related to authorities that Crews told her she strangled LaFontaine-Greywind herself and cut her baby from her womb within three minutes of strangling her.

Defense attorney Daniel Borgen told Crews that based on information he had received, Robinson also claimed Crews told her she had suspected LaFontaine-Greywind of having a relationship with Hoehn and was jealous of her.

Borgen also said that Robinson said Crews told her she believed LaFontaine-Greywind’s baby may have been fathered by Hoehn.

Crews replied that she rarely spoke about the case with anyone, and later made strong denials to the claims.

When prosecutor Ryan Younggren asked Crews if she was aware Robinson had convictions for giving false information, theft and possessing drugs, Crews replied yes, and she described Robinson’s assertions as “base falsehood.”

Crumbling delusions

The dramatic exchanges came after Crews testified as to what she said happened in the north Fargo apartment she and Hoehn shared in August 2017.

Crews said she told Hoehn in early 2017 that she was pregnant in a bid to keep him from leaving her.

She said she grew to believe her own lie and became obsessed with the idea of having a baby.

Crews said her delusion came to a crashing end on Aug. 6, when Hoehn, her boyfriend at the time, mocked her for believing she was pregnant.

Crews said she and Hoehn never explicitly talked about how they could have a child, as she had had a medical procedure years ago to prevent one. But she said after the Aug. 6 conversation, there was an unspoken understanding that Hoehn expected her to produce a child somehow.

Crews said that about 1 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2017, she went to the apartment of LaFontaine-Greywind, which was in the same building as the couple’s apartment, and asked her to help with a sewing project, which she said was a ruse.

When LaFontaine-Greywind, who was eight months pregnant, came to her apartment, Crews started an argument.

Crews said they began to fight and she pushed LaFontaine-Greywind down, causing her to strike her head on the bathroom sink, which knocked her out. This seemed to contradict earlier testimony from a medical examiner who said an autopsy showed no signs that LaFontaine-Greywind suffered a head injury.

Crews said she then got a box cutter from a desk drawer and proceeded to cut LaFontaine-Greywind’s child from her. She said LaFontaine-Greywind began coming around, so she held her down.

Crews testified that after the baby was removed, she was sitting on the floor next to LaFontaine-Greywind when Hoehn arrived home from work and poked his head in the bathroom, unable to open the door completely because LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was blocking it.

‘Please help me’

Crews said Hoehn uttered several expletives, then asked whether LaFontaine-Greywind was alive. She said she responded: “I don’t know. Please help me.”

Crews said Hoehn left the doorway and returned wearing only his underwear and carrying some rope.

She said he put the rope around LaFontaine-Greywind’s neck, pulled it tight and said that if she wasn’t dead before, “she is now.”

Crews said Hoehn then took charge, directing her to help him clean the bathroom.

Crews related how the couple first hid LaFontaine-Greywind’s body in a bathroom closet and later moved it to a dresser that Hoehn had removed the drawers from and then nailed the drawer faces back on to conceal the body.

She said they carried the dresser out of the apartment building early in the morning on Aug. 21, 2017, and loaded it into a jeep.

Crews said Hoehn drove off in the jeep and she learned later he dumped the remains in the Red River, something she said she asked him not to do.

According to Crews, during an initial police search of the apartment on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was in the bathroom closet and the baby was amid the covers of a bed Hoehn was lying on when police walked through the apartment.

She said between that Saturday and the following Thursday, when police executed a search warrant at the apartment and found the baby, she told Hoehn several times she wanted to bring the baby to the Greywind family’s apartment, but he told her no.

Crews testified that authorities found rope in the couple’s apartment because when they were intimate they would sometimes engage in bondage.

She said Hoehn talked about sexual fantasies that included kidnapping and raping a girl, and she said the fantasies escalated into talk of killing the victim to keep her silent.

Crews said the age of the potential victims Hoehn talked about kept getting younger as time went on.

‘Horrible, atrocious, sickening’

Crews said at one point during the summer of 2017 Hoehn said to her, “I just seen that Greywind girl downstairs, and she’s really pregnant.”

Crews said she interpreted that statement to mean: “We could get a baby from her.”

Crews said a number of times she could not believe what she did, describing the actions as “horrible, atrocious, sickening.”

Her account Tuesday of what happened Aug. 19, 2017, differed from one she gave police on Aug. 24, 2017, after she was arrested in possession of LaFontaine-Greywind’s newborn baby, but before LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was found on Aug. 27, 2017.

Crews said in the police interview that LaFontaine-Greywind was alive and well when she left her apartment.

On Tuesday, Crews said she believed at the time of the police interview that she could still “lie her way” out of it.

Crews pleaded guilty late last year to conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and lying to police. She is serving a life sentence.

Hoehn has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and lying to police, but he has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Borgen told jurors in opening statements there was never an agreement between Crews and Hoehn to kill LaFontaine-Greywind.

When Younggren asked Crews Tuesday why she was testifying, she said it was for LaFontaine-Greywind’s family.

“I can’t undo what I’ve done, but I can do everything in my power … to help the Greywind family have closure in any possible way they can,” she said.

A medical examiner testified Monday, Sept. 24, that an exact cause of death couldn’t be determined, but he said it was either due to bleeding to death or strangulation.

Younggren said Tuesday that at least two more prosecution witnesses are expected to testify, including Fargo police Detective Philip Swan and Ashton Matheny, the father of LaFontaine-Greywind’s daughter. The girl survived the ordeal of August 2017 and is now cared for by Matheny and relatives.

Borgen declined to say whether the defense planned to call any witnesses.

The trial is to resume at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26. Attorneys said final arguments could start sometime on Thursday.

Dave Olson
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