A man on trial in the death of a North Dakota woman whose baby was cut from her womb denied any role in her death, testifying Thursday that when he walked into his apartment and heard a baby cry, he thought his girlfriend had given birth.
William Hoehn, 33, disputed testimony from his now ex-girlfriend, Brooke Crews, that he took any part in the August 2017 slaying of Savanna Greywind, 22. Crews is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to murder.
Hoehn is charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He has admitted he helped to cover up the crime but denied knowing anything about Crews’ plans to kill Greywind.
Jurors got the case late Thursday, and deliberated for about 90 minutes with no verdict. They were due to return Friday morning.
Crews testified this week that she didn’t “explicitly” tell Hoehn what she planned to do, but said when he walked in on a bloody scene in the couple’s apartment bathroom, he got a rope and twisted it around Greywind’s neck to make sure she was dead. The judge said his testimony could be taken as evidence that Hoehn had agreed to participate in the crime.
Crews also testified that she had faked a pregnancy to keep from losing Hoehn, and that when he figured out she was lying, she felt pressured to get a baby. Hoehn disputed that, saying he believed Crews was pregnant until the day of Greywind’s death.
Hoehn looked frequently at the jury during his testimony as he described arriving home that day and hearing a baby.
“It wasn’t a wail, it wasn’t like a cry or nothing,” he said. “It was a distinct baby sound. I remember feeling elated and I thought, ‘Oh my god, she had the baby when I was at work.’ ”
Hoehn said after he walked into the bathroom, he asked Crews, “Were you even pregnant?” He said she grabbed her stomach and said, “I think so.”
When Hoehn was asked by his attorney, Daniel Borgen, whether he had any agreement with Crews to kill Greywind and take her baby, Hoehn said: “Absolutely not. No, no, no.”
Attorneys on both sides told jurors in closing arguments that they would have to wade through testimony from questionable sources. Borgen called Crews “the most devious, skilled liar we have ever seen.” Prosecutor Leah Viste said there’s enough circumstantial evidence to prove conspiracy in a case where “everyone related to the event is a liar.”
“They made a plan and they carried out,” Viste said of Hoehn and Crews, calling them “two people deep in dysfunction.”
Viste said Crews’ testimony that she felt pressured to produce a baby and Hoehn’s action when he came upon the scene in the bathroom are two ways the jurors can find intent. Borgen said there’s no way to prove whether Greywind was alive when Hoehn got there, thus ruling out conspiracy.
“‘Perhaps he held the rope’ was their argument,” Borgen said. “Does that sound like beyond a reasonable doubt?”
Greywind’s death prompted North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to introduce Savanna’s Act , which aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases and create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and slain Native American women . A similar bill has been introduced in the House.