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March trial date sought for suspect in Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind killing

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William Hoehn appears Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Cass County District Court in Fargo with his attorney Daniel Borgen. Hoehn is one of two suspects charged in the killing of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 3
Melissa Widner, from left, her husband Jeff, Jennifer Buckley and Whitney Fear hold signs in a demonstration Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in front of the Cass County Courthouse in Fargo, before a hearing for William Hoehn, one of two suspects charged in the killing of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 3

FARGO – The defense attorney for William Henry Hoehn, one of two people charged in the killing of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and the kidnapping of her baby, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, requested a March 2018 trial in the case.

Hoehn, 32, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping of a child, and providing false information to law enforcement. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held in Cass County Jail.

Brooke Lynn Crews, 38, Hoehn’s live-in girlfriend at the time of his arrest, has been charged with the same crimes. Crews pleaded not guilty in September, but court documents last week indicated that she now plans to change her plea at a hearing on Monday, Dec. 11.

Wednesday’s hearing for Hoehn, known as a dispositional conference, was his first in-person appearance in Cass County District Court. He was escorted into the courtroom, wearing an orange jail sweatshirt, orange pants and orange plastic sandals. He was handcuffed and his ankles bound with a chain.

He scanned the crowd in the spectator area, seeming to look for someone. He didn’t say anything to the judge during the hearing, which lasted only about a minute.

Hoehn’s attorney, Daniel Borgen, told Judge Tom Olson that he would be ready for trial in March. A specific trial date was not set.

LaFontaine-Greywind’s family, including her mother Norberta LaFontaine-Greywind and father Joe Greywind, attended the hearing. They were holding their daughter’s child, Haisley Jo.

Family members jammed into a single bench in the courtroom. Supporters filled three additional rows. Many wore red T-shirts in memory of the slain woman and to commemorate the larger issue of missing and murdered native women. LaFontaine-Greywind was a member of the Spirit Lake Nation.

About a dozen people gathered outside the courthouse before the hearing for a demonstration, some carrying signs. One sign said, “Justice for Savanna.” Another said, “Stop Stealing our Sisters.”

Ruth Buffalo, a member of the Fargo Native American Commission, who organized the demonstration, said its purpose was to “stand in solidarity with the Greywind family. Our hope is that Savanna and her family receive justice. The family needs justice. We were just there to offer support and let the family know they’re not alone.”

LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, disappeared while eight months pregnant on Aug. 19 after she went to the upstairs apartment of Hoehn and Crews to model a dress that Crews was sewing. She lived with her family in a basement apartment in the same building on Ninth Street North in Fargo. Her body was found in the Red River eight days later.

Police raided the apartment of Hoehn and Crews on Aug. 24 and, according to police, found Crews with a newborn baby. Crews was arrested. Hoehn was arrested later the same day. The baby later proved to belong to LaFontaine-Greywind and her boyfriend Ashton Matheny. Matheny has been awarded custody of the baby, and they live in St. Michael on the Spirit Lake reservation.

What impact Crews’ decision to change her plea will have on Hoehn’s case is unknown, but the two suspects told very different stories to police after their arrests.

Hoehn said he came home from work at 2:30 p.m. on the day LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared and discovered Crews cleaning up blood in the apartment bathroom. He said Crews presented him with a newborn baby and told him, “This is our baby, this is our family.” Hoehn told police he removed garbage bags containing bloody towels and shoes, and disposed of them in an apartment dumpster in an unknown location in West Fargo.

Crews, in contrast, told police she instructed LaFontaine-Greywind on the day she disappeared how to induce early childbirth. She said the woman then left her apartment, returned two days later at 3:30 a.m., and gave Crews a newborn baby. Crews told police that she took advantage of LaFontaine-Greywind in order to obtain her child.

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