The North Dakota Supreme Court has removed a life sentence for William Hoehn. The 34-year-old man was convicted in August 2017 related to the kidnapping of the pregnant Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake tribe.
Hoehn had pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiring to commit kidnapping and lying to police, but a 12-person jury found Hoehn not guilty of conspiring to murder LaFontaine-Greywind.
In response to the decision, state Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-Fargo, posted to Facebook, “This is not justice. Once again a good example of how the justice system continues to fail us over and over again.”
Hoehn was sentenced in October of 2018 to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in conspiring to kidnap. Because Hoehn was sentenced with the status of “dangerous offender.” His sentence was criticized by his counsel because “unfairly” increased from a 20-year sentence to life in prison and that his life sentence should be vacated.
As reported in the West Fargo Pioneer, Kiara Kraus-Parr, Hoehn's attorney for the appeal, said she was confident going into the appeal that the Supreme Court would rule in their favor on the question of dangerous offender status. "The law was pretty clearly on our side on this one," stated Kraus-Parr.
In October, Cass Country District Judge Tom Olson had granted the prosecution’s request for Hoehn to be labeled a ‘dangerous offender’ which was the basis on which Hoehn’s counsel sought to vacate the sentence in the North Dakota Supreme Court, a maneuver which proved successful for Hoehn’s defense team.
On Thursday, August 22, the Supreme Court did affirm Hoehn’s conviction of conspiracy to commit kidnapping but deemed the ‘dangerous offender’ designation should not be in place when sentencing. A new sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
History of the case
As previously reported in Indian Country Today, Hoehn, along with his ex-girlfriend Brooke Crews, 39, were charged with conspiring to murder the pregnant 22-year-old LaFontaine-Greywind and kidnap her baby. Though the baby was cut from her womb, police had issued a search warrant and found LaFontaine-Greywind’s healthy baby at the apartment. LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was found in the Red River.
Hoehn’s girlfriend pleaded guilty to her charges and is serving a life sentence in prison. Hoehn’s maximum sentence on conspiring to kidnap is 20 years, while the lying to police charge is 360 days.
The history of this case involves the initial disappearance of LaFontaine-Greywind, who became missing after being invited by Crews to her apartment under the false guise to help her with a sewing project.
Hoehn and Crews abducted LaFontaine-Greywind and claimed that she had fallen and hit her head on the bathroom sink. The baby was cut from LaFontaine-Greywind’s womb and she was strangled. The coroner has since ruled LaFontaine-Greywind’s death was from blood loss or strangulation.
When Hoehn and Crews were interviewed by police in the days following LaFontaine-Greywind’s disappearance. They claimed they had no idea of her whereabouts, but the police later learned Hoehn had talked with co-workers at Walmart about a newborn baby that Crews’ had, and that Hoehn had bought diapers at the store.
Police had issued a search warrant and found LaFontaine-Greywind’s healthy baby at the apartment. LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was found in the Red River.
During the trial, Bryan Grob, an inmate who did time with Hoehn, testified that Hoehn had told him that he cleaned up the blood of LaFontaine-Greywind, wrapped her in trash bags and had put her body in a hollow dresser. Hoehn had also allegedly told Grob he had taken her body out of the apartment on August 20, 2017, but was not involved with conspiracy because LaFontaine-Greywind was already dead when he arrived at the apartment.
As reported by the Pioneer, prosecutor Leah Viste says she was ‘disappointed’ by the decision but suspected the North Dakota Supreme Court "would not see things our way."