Who was Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind? How Native American woman's brutal murder gave rise to Savanna's Act

The act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on October 10, is named in memory of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a North Dakota resident who was murdered in 2017

                            Who was Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind? How Native American woman's brutal murder gave rise to Savanna's Act
Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind (Fargo Police)

The Savanna's Act, which seeks to battle violence against the most vulnerable members of the Native American community, was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Saturday, October 10.

Savanna's Act is named in memory of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a North Dakota resident who was murdered in 2017. Senator Kevin Cramer helped introduce the bill in January 2019. Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, co-sponsored the bill. "Savanna’s Act addresses a tragic issue in Indian Country and helps establish better law enforcement practices to track, solve and prevent these crimes against Native Americans. We appreciate our House colleagues for passing the bill today and sending it on to the president to become law. At the same time, we continue working to advance more legislation like this to strengthen public safety in tribal communities and ensure victims of crime receive support and justice," Hoeven's statement read.

According to the White House press release, the act came because "Native American communities are facing a crisis of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, in particular women and children. One study found that Native American women in certain tribal communities are ten times more likely to be murdered than the average American."

Who was Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind?

Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, used to live with her parents and brother in a basement apartment in Fargo, North Dakota. She was planning to move in with her boyfriend Ashton Matheny, with whom she was expecting her first child. Savanna worked as a nursing assistant, hoping to fully qualify as a nurse specializing in elder care. The apartment above the Greywinds was occupied by a couple, Brooke Crews and William Hoehn, who were known in the building for their explosive fights. 

Savanna and her family did not know the couple well. According to Crews, in January 2017, she told Hoehn that she was pregnant after he threatened to leave her. Hoehn later found out that Crews had lied to him about her pregnancy. Enraged, he ambiguously told her to "produce a baby" or he would leave her. 

Brooke Lynn Crews and William Henry Hoehn (Courtesy of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office)

On August 19, 2017, eight months pregnant Savanna got invited by Brooke Crews to model a dress she had made, offering her $20, to which Savanna agreed. At 1:24 pm ET, she texted her mother and boyfriend, letting them know about her plans to help Crews. She ordered a pizza for lunch to share with the family, but by the time it arrived, she had to leave if she was going to be on time to Crews’s apartment. But she never came back. When she didn't return till 4:30 pm ET, her mother, Norberta, reported her daughter missing to the Fargo Police Department. Police officers arrived at the apartment building at 5 pm ET. After speaking to Norberta, they made their way upstairs to Apartment 5, Savanna’s last known whereabouts. They searched the apartment twice on August 19, 2017, and on the next day as well. The searches turned up nothing. 

On August 24, 2017, Hoehn and Crew allegedly welcomed a baby, which was enough to grant the police a warrant to once again search their apartment. Crews was in the apartment and there, on the bed, lay a healthy baby girl. Police caught Crews right there and then and Hoehn was arrested at work. On December 11, 2017, Crews pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and lying to police. She wept throughout her testimony, expressing remorse for the heinous crime, and apologizing for the pain she had caused Savanna's family.

"There is no excuse. There is no rationalization. There is nothing," Crews said during a prepared statement. "My actions devastated a family and shocked the community that I called home." Crews admitted that Savanna had come to her apartment on August 19, under the pretense of modeling a dress for her. What followed was the most horrific, terrifying ordeal one could possibly imagine. Pretty much as soon as Savanna arrived, Crews started an argument with her. The two ended up fighting in the bathroom, where Crews pushed Savanna, causing her to hit her head on the sink and fall unconscious. Crews went into the kitchen and retrieved a knife. On returning to the bathroom, she proceeded to haphazardly cut into Savanna’s abdomen and pulled the baby out of her womb. Savanna was drifting in and out of consciousness due to the loss of blood. 

While Crews was cleaning up the blood from the bathroom floor, Hoehn returned home to find Crews holding the newborn. "This is our baby," she said to Hoehn, "This is our family." Hoehn asked if she was dead, to which Crews replied, "I don’t know. Please help me." According to Crews, Hoehn left the bathroom and came back with a rope, which he tightened around Greywind's neck until she was no longer breathing. He then said, "If she wasn’t dead before, she is now." The two stashed the body in a closet in the bathroom and finished cleaning the blood from the bathroom floor. 

On August 27, 2017, Kayakers in the Red River found Greywind's body stuffed in garbage bags on a fallen log. "Recreational kayakers on the Red River found what appeared to be a body-sized object, heavily wrapped in plastic and duct tape, stuck against a tree sticking out in the middle of the river," Fargo Police Chief David Todd said during a press conference.

The pair is being held at the Cass County Jail on $2 million bail.

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