UPDATED: 'This is our baby': Couple told police conflicting stories of how they ended up with missing woman's newborn
When William Hoehn came home from work Aug. 19 to the apartment he shared with Brooke Crews, she was cleaning blood from their bathroom, he would later tell police.
She would never return home.
Crews claimed in her interview with police that LaFontaine-Greywind had come to the apartment to learn how to induce labor early and that she returned at 3:30 a.m. Aug. 21 to give the baby to Crews.
The conflicting stories of Hoehn and Crews are among the court records Cass County prosecutors released Monday, Aug. 28, the day after kayakers found LaFontaine-Greywind’s body in the Red River, wrapped in plastic and duct tape. Her parents, who had been searching for her with volunteers, confirmed to police it was her body.
“We will continue to pursue justice for Savanna,” Fargo Police Chief David Todd said in a news conference Monday. “Savanna was a victim of a cruel, vicious act of depravity.”
Prosecutors have charged Crews, 38, and Hoehn, 32, each with conspiring to murder LaFontaine-Greywind, lying to police about her disappearance, and conspiring to kidnap her unborn child. Prosecutors said the suspects planned to murder LaFontaine-Greywind to steal her fetus and raise the baby as their own biological child. Court records in North Dakota, Minnesota and other states show Crews and Hoehn have at least nine children between them.
$2 MILLION BAIL
Crews and Hoehn wore orange prison garb when they made their initial appearance in Cass County District Court by interactive TV on Monday.
If convicted, they would face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole for the charge of conspiring to commit murder, according to Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick. Conspiring to commit kidnapping is a felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Providing false information to law enforcement is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of a year in prison.
Burdick told The Forum police had initially sought kidnapping charges after discovering the baby in the suspects’ apartment, but after LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was found, murder charges were added.
Judge Thomas R. Olson set bail at $2 million in cash for each, which Hoehn complained was an “unobtainable” amount.
Both he and Crews sought representation by court-appointed attorneys, citing their lack of income. Crews, who described Hoehn as her “fiance” and only source of income, said she has been too ill to find work for “a while” and has no family to help. Hoehn, who described Crews as his “significant other,” said he lost his roofing job after being jailed.
Justifying the bail, Assistant State’s Attorney Tanya Martinez told the judge Hoehn has had past run-ins with the law, a reference to his 2012 conviction for child abuse and his 2016 conviction on a domestic assault involving Crews. Martinez said both the suspects had been looking at travel websites suggesting they were planning to flee.
POSSIBLE FEDERAL CASE
Burdick said he has kept the U.S. Attorney’s Office updated on the case but doesn’t know if federal prosecutors will take over. He said that decision will be made once all of the evidence in the case has been assessed.
LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared from a home in North Dakota, but some possible evidence was found at a farmstead in Minnesota. Neither state has a death penalty, but the federal government does.
Burdick said the U.S. Attorney’s Office would determine whether the death penalty would be sought.
For now, Crews’ next appearance in Cass County District Court is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 28, and she’ll be represented by public defender Monty Mertz. Hoehn’s next court appearance is set for 9 a.m. Oct. 4, and he’ll be represented by court-appointed attorney Stormy Vickers.
The Forum sought comment from Mertz and Vickers but was unsuccessful.
Burdick said assistant state’s attorneys Martinez and Leah Viste will be prosecuting the case.
END OF SEARCHThe search for LaFontaine-Greywind, a certified nursing assistant at a Fargo nursing home, has been underway for several days with friends and families joining police in combing rivers, forests and fields. Kayakers out enjoying the Red River stumbled upon her body about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, near the bridge connecting 90th Avenue Northwest in rural Moorhead to Cass County.
At the news conference, Todd described it as a “body-sized object, heavily wrapped in plastic and duct tape stuck against a tree, sticking out in the middle of the river.” Police pulled the body from the water, and by 9:30 p.m. it was confirmed to be LaFontaine-Greywind’s, he said.
Her aunt, Tarita Silk, told The Forum that LaFontaine-Greywind’s parents, Joe and Norberta, were brought to the site and identified the body.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department has sent the body to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner in St. Paul, Todd said.
Autopsy reports are expected in weeks, though preliminary information for use by investigators might be available within days, said Fargo police Lt. Jason Nelson of the Criminal Investigations Division.
Nelson was asked if the body provided clues to whether LaFontaine-Greywind gave birth naturally, as Crews claims, or by cesarean section but he declined to answer.
The search for LaFontaine-Greywind may also have uncovered yet another crime scene, according to Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist. Volunteers searching an abandoned farmstead in rural Moorhead, south of where the body was discovered, found “some things that they thought was very, very suspicious.”
One of those searchers, Lauren Hatlestad, said a fellow volunteer had noticed new tracks and overgrown grass that was recently disturbed at the farmstead. A team of six searched the property until 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, and then again Sunday when they found the suspicious items, she said, but wouldn’t describe what she found for fear of jeopardizing the investigation.
But she did describe a foreboding feeling she had searching the property. “There was just something wrong out there. It just felt painful and scary. Something was there, we just weren't sure what.”
Todd said the police investigation will continue even as charges have been filed and court dates set. “We still have a lot of investigating to do to put the puzzle pieces together in this case.”
FINDING BABY HAISLEY
Police had searched Crews’ and Hoehn’s apartment three times with the couple’s consent, twice on the day LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared and once the following day, according to Nelson. There was no indication then that LaFontaine-Greywind or her baby had been there.
The suspects didn’t appear to be concealing a crime scene and were cooperative at that point, he said.
According to court documents, Hoehn told police that after Crews cleaned blood from the bathroom, he placed bloody towels and his own bloody shoes in garbage bags that he then left in a dumpster at a West Fargo apartment building. Police do not know which building he meant.
On Aug. 23, police arrested him because he had failed to pay a fine for violating a no-contact order back in November after his domestic assault on Crews. He was let go the same day after paying.
It wasn’t until Aug. 24, five days after LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared, that police obtained a search warrant for Crews’ and Hoehn’s apartment and found the baby with Crews. Court documents said “additional information obtained during the investigation” led to police seeking the warrant, but police haven’t said what that is.
Savanna’s presumed baby was placed under the protective custody of Cass County Social Services, police have said. The agency will decide where the baby will end up and if visitation will be allowed, Nelson said.
Though Crews and Hoehn have told police the baby is LaFontaine-Greywind’s, the lieutenant said a DNA test is underway to confirm that and results would likely be available next week.
Ashton Matheny, LaFontaine-Greywind’s boyfriend of six years and the baby’s presumed father, said they were going to name her Haisley Jo.