FARGO – In a discovery that ended a desperate eight-day search, kayakers on Sunday found the body of Savanna Greywind, the 22-year-old Fargo woman who has been missing since Aug. 19.
Fargo Police Chief David Todd said the body, which was wrapped in plastic and hung up on a log, was identified as Greywind, who was eight months pregnant.
Todd spoke to reporters just after 10 p.m. in a rural area on the Minnesota side of the river about 6 miles north of Moorhead.
Around the same time as the kayakers discovered the body, a search party found some suspicious material at a nearby farmstead. Todd said investigators believe that farmstead may be a crime scene.
The body is being taken to Ramsey County, Todd said.
Even before the search for Greywind was over, many here in the Red River Valley were coming to the horrifying realization that the she may have been the victim of "womb raiders" who forcibly took her baby.
On Sunday, before Greywind was found, searchers combed through head-high thickets of brush and thistles along the Red River, police brought in dogs specially trained to sniff out placentas.
In coffee shops, in hotels, in churches, the Greywind case and its shocking possibilities were the overwhelming topic of conversation.
"It's like a Lifetime movie," said Fargo resident Tammy Krause, shaking her head sadly.
"Nothing surprises me anymore," said Bill Larson of Moorhead, Minn.
Greywind, a nursing assistant at a senior care facility, disappeared Aug. 19 from the apartment she shared with her parents in a middle-class neighborhood of north Fargo.
Her parents told police she had gone upstairs to a neighbor's apartment to help with a sewing project and never returned.
Five days later, Fargo police serving a search warrant found a newborn baby girl in the apartment where Greywind was last seen and arrested the residents, 38-year-old Brooke Crews and 32-year-old William Hoehn. Both are being held in the Cass County jail on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Jail officials said the couple are expected to make their first court appearance Monday afternoon.
At a news conference last week, Todd said authorities were investigating a number of possible scenarios, including whether Greywind's child was removed from her womb or if labor had been induced.
Friends of Greywind reacted to news of her body being found with anguish.
"My heart just got torn out of my chest," said a friend on Greywind's Facebook page. "I am absolutely heartbroken."
Another Facebook friend said, "words can't explain how angry and heartbroken I am."
Parents keep tabs on search
Throughout the weekend, buses and vans arrived with groups of American Indians from throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota. Three busloads came from the Turtle Mountain Reservation near the North Dakota-Canada border, where Greywind lived as a child.
"She was bright. She was into music and running around outside," said Sierra Demery, who babysat Greywind when the missing woman was about 9 years old. "Just the usual things for a kid that age."
Demery described Greywind's family as close. "They're nice. They have a really close relationship with their children," she said.
Greywind's parents, Norberta LaFontaine-Greywind and Joe Greywind, have stayed in close contact with volunteers searching for their daughter. The couple appeared early Sunday morning at Trollwood Park along the riverfront, where search leaders set up an informal command post to coordinate the efforts of hundreds of volunteers.
The parents conferred briefly with search leaders, listening intently and exchanging hugs. Then they climbed into a white Pontiac sedan and drove away. Search coordinators asked the media not to approach them, saying they didn't want to speak publicly.
The father of Greywind's baby, Ashton Matheny, told Fargo TV station WDAY that authorities won't let family members see the child until DNA testing confirms Greywind as the mother.
"It breaks my heart," Matheny said in the interview. "They're admitting it's [our] baby." The couple had planned to name their child Haisley Jo.
Greywind "has a kind soul. She's loving. She cares for everyone," Matheny said. "All she does is love and give and care."
The baby is at Sanford Children's Hospital in Fargo under the custody of Cass County Social Services.
At the Greywind family's apartment building, the door to No. 5, the upstairs apartment where Greywind is believed to have disappeared, is boarded up with plywood. Sawdust and wood chips litter the carpeted hallway.
"The cops came and knocked the door down," according to a resident of the building who was home when officers arrived on Thursday. "They shouted, 'Get down on the ground!' "
The resident said Greywind's disappearance has been frightening and refused to give a full name, fearing the suspects might have friends who would seek to do harm.
"I am very — this is — wow. That's all I can say," the resident said.
In a vacant lot in an industrial area of Fargo, among the truck stops and machinery depots bordering Interstate 29, a group of Indians was on day four of a seven-day sweat ceremony for Greywind.
In a poplar-framed sweat lodge draped with heavy tarps, they drummed and chanted, rousing the spirits of their grandfathers to look after the missing woman. On Saturday night, a dozen people were in the lodge, while Jim Hinschberger tended the fire outside.
The tragedy of Greywind's disappearance has brought people together, said Hinschberger, whose spirit name is "Brave Crow."
"Not only native people," he said, "but white people and black people."
Brave Crow leaned on his rake and gazed at the moon and stars appearing in the twilight sky.
"I think she may have crossed over," he said quietly.