FARGO – When William Hoehn came home to his apartment here on the afternoon of Aug. 19, he said, his girlfriend of three years, Brooke Crews, was cleaning up blood in their bathroom.
Then, he told investigators, she showed him a newborn baby girl she planned to claim as their own.
“This is our baby, this is our family,” she told him, according to documents filed Monday in Cass County District Court.
Authorities think otherwise, and on Monday, charged Hoehn, 32, and Crews, 38, with conspiring to kidnap and murder 22-year-old Savanna Greywind and steal her baby.
Greywind, who was eight months pregnant, disappeared Aug. 19 from the Fargo apartment she shared with her parents in the same building where Hoehn and Crews lived upstairs. She had gone to the couple’s apartment, her parents said, to help with a sewing project.
After an eight-day search by hundreds of volunteers, Greywind’s body was found by kayakers about 5:45 p.m. Sunday in the Red River, wrapped in plastic and duct tape and snagged on a log. Authorities confirmed the identification a short time later.
“Savanna was the victim of a cruel and vicious act of depravity,” Fargo Police Chief David Todd said Monday at a news conference. “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of this young lady.”
According to the criminal complaint, Crews and Hoehn gave different accounts of how the baby wound up in their apartment:
Crews told police that she had called Greywind to her apartment Aug. 19 and instructed her on how to self-induce birth by breaking her own water. Crews told investigators that Greywind left, and returned two days later to give Crews the child.
Hoehn, meanwhile, told police that he first saw the baby the afternoon of Aug. 19. He admitted removing garbage bags containing bloody towels and his own bloody shoes from the apartment and disposing of them in an apartment building dumpster at an unknown location in West Fargo.
Police arrested Crews and Hoehn last Thursday after serving a search warrant. Although they had already searched the apartment three times, it wasn’t until their fourth search of the unit that they found the newborn girl.
Crews and Hoehn made their first court appearance Monday by video from the Cass County jail.
Hoehn, dressed in an orange prison sweatshirt with his hands shackled, stared straight ahead as the charges against him were read. When prosecutor Tanya Johnson Martinez asked for bail to be set at $2 million cash, Hoehn grew agitated.
“Two million is unattainable for any normal person,” he said in a loud voice. “That is not a reasonable bail.”
Martinez pointed out that Hoehn had several criminal convictions on his record. What’s more, she said, a search of the couple’s electronic devices showed web searches for travel sites, suggesting that they might have been planning to flee.
Crews, also dressed in an orange sweatshirt with handcuffed hands, said nothing other than acknowledging that she understood the charges and her rights.
District Judge Tom Olson set bail at $2 million cash for both.
It is believed the baby girl, at Sanford Children’s Hospital under the custody of Cass County Social Services, is Greywind’s, though authorities are conducting DNA tests to be sure.
Police would not say Monday whether Greywind’s body showed evidence of a Caesarean section or of labor having been induced. And it’s unclear where she died. Her body has been sent to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner for an autopsy and forensic examination. A cause of death hasn’t been released yet, and a full report isn’t expected for weeks, officials said.
About the time kayakers found Greywind’s body Sunday, volunteer searchers found suspicious items at an abandoned farm on the Minnesota side of the Red River, about 6 miles north of Moorhead.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were processing the farm as a suspected crime scene, officials said Monday. Authorities said the unoccupied farm, which Crews and Hoehn didn’t own, had been abandoned for 20 to 30 years. They said the property’s owner is cooperating with police.
In addition to conspiracy to commit murder, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison without parole, Crews and Hoehn also were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, a felony, and providing false information, a misdemeanor.
The couple have been living together for about three years, according to court records of a domestic violence case against Hoehn last year. In that case, Hoehn was charged with pushing Crews into a bathtub during an argument. The incident took place in the same apartment where the couple lived when Greywind disappeared.
Hoehn was convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault in that case and sentenced to 30 days in jail, court records show.
In 2012, Hoehn was convicted in Grand Forks, N.D., of felony child abuse. He received a sentence of one year in jail and served 130 days.
In that case, Hoehn was found responsible for multiple skull fractures that his infant son sustained while in Hoehn’s care, according to court records.
Staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report