Questions for potential jurors reveal issues at heart of gruesome Fargo murder trial

FARGO -- Opening statements and testimony are to start Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the trial of a man accused of conspiring to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose body was discovered in the Red River in August 2017 barren of the infant girl she...
William Hoehn, right, appears Tuesday, Sept. 18, in Cass County District Court for jury selection in his trial, with defense attorney Daniel Borgen. Hoehn is charged with conspiring to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a 22-year-old whose baby was cut from her womb. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO - Opening statements and testimony are to start Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the trial of a man accused of conspiring to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose body was discovered in the Red River in August 2017 barren of the infant girl she was pregnant with.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the trial for William Hoehn began in Cass County District Court with the selection of 12 jurors and two alternates, a group comprised of roughly an equal number of men and women.

Hoehn, who had appeared at earlier court proceedings sporting a full beard and an orange  jumpsuit, arrived for his trial freshly shaven and wearing a pink shirt and khakis.

The trial’s first day was taken up with questioning of prospective jurors.

Hoehn’s attorney, Daniel Borgen, asked questions that focused on whether prospective jurors could remain impartial if the defendant didn’t take the stand. He also inquired about their romantic lives as well.

“How many of you have been lied to by the person you loved? Did you find it easy to believe that lie because you loved the person who was telling it?” Borgen asked.

These questions were on the table because in August of last year Hoehn and his girlfriend at the time, Brooke Crews, lived in the same apartment building as LaFontaine-Greywind.

In a jailhouse interview with The Forum last month, Hoehn said he returned home from work on Aug. 19, 2017, to find Crews cleaning blood from their bathroom.

According to court records, Hoehn told police Crews presented him with a baby and said, “This is our baby, this is our family.”

Hoehn, 33, said in his interview with The Forum that rather than call police that day, he took bloody shoes and bloody towels from the apartment and disposed of them in a West Fargo dumpster.

Crews pleaded guilty late last year and is serving a life sentence for the murder of 22-year-old LaFontaine-Greywind, who was eight months pregnant when Crews cut open her womb and stole her baby.

According to court records, Crews lured the expectant mother to her apartment, claiming she wanted help with a sewing project.

LaFontaine-Greywind’s family members never saw her alive again.

What role Hoehn may have played in the crime remains at issue. Judge Tom Olson said at the start of Tuesday’s trial that Crews is on the list of potential witnesses set to testify, as is Norberta Greywind, LaFontaine-Greywind’s mother, and Ashton Matheny, the father of LaFontaine-Greywind’s baby.

The baby girl was found unharmed in the apartment Crews and Hoehn shared when Crews was arrested on Aug. 24, 2017, and the girl now lives with her father and family. LaFontaine-Greywind’s body was found three days later in the Red River.

In questioning potential jurors Tuesday, prosecutor Ryan Younggren spent much time on the question of what it means when two people enter into an agreement.

The line of questioning appeared related to statutory language that underlies the conspiracy to commit murder charge Hoehn faces.

Prominent Fargo defense attorney Bruce Quick, who is not a lawyer in the case, said Tuesday that conspiracy only requires an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime and that one co-conspirator commits an “overt act” in furtherance of that agreement.

“Here, the allegation is an agreement to commit murder and then the murder occurs, which obviously would satisfy the overt act requirement,” Quick said.

He said the defense will likely assert there was no agreement to commit murder.

Hoehn has pleaded guilty to kidnapping in the case of LaFontaine-Greywind’s infant daughter and to lying to police. He is awaiting sentencing on those charges.

Hoehn said during his interview with The Forum that he thought Crews was pregnant and that the first time he realized Crews was lying was when he came home from work on Aug. 19, 2017.

Prosecutors allege Crews and Hoehn conspired to raise the baby as their own.

In his interview with The Forum, Hoehn said he never heard Crews talk about LaFontaine-Greywind. He said he had only seen LaFontaine-Greywind once or twice and couldn’t pick her out of a crowd before her image flooded the news.

Hoehn’s trial is expected to last about nine days.