A man whose life sentence was overturned in the death of a North Dakota woman whose baby was cut from her womb was re-sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison.
William Hoehn, of Fargo, was sentenced a year ago to life with the possibility of parole for his role in the 2017 attack on Savanna Greywind, whose baby survived. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled in August that Judge Tom Olson had mistakenly labeled Hoehn as a dangerous special offender based on previous crimes and said Olson shouldn’t have strayed from maximum allowable sentence of 21 years.
Olson handed out the maximum the second time around — 20 years for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and one year for lying to police — but made them concurrent.
“I want to sentence you to as long as I can by law,” Olson said.
Hoehn pleaded guilty to those two charges, but he was tried and acquitted in September 2018 on a third charge, conspiracy to commit murder. His lawyer argued that Hoehn’s girlfriend, Brooke Crews, was the mastermind behind the killing and that Crews admitted she had sliced Greywind’s baby from her womb. Crews pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gloria Allred, an attorney for the Greywind family, said Savanna’s relatives were “disappointed and upset” about the state Supreme Court ruling and were hoping that Hoehn would receive the maximum sentence. No members of the Greywind family were evident in court Monday.
Defense attorneys asked for seven years in prison, while prosecutors sought the full amount. Prosecutor Leah Viste called Hoehn’s actions “unimaginable.”
Before the sentence was pronounced, Hoehn apologized to the Greywinds: “I think about and pray for them every single day, every day,” he said. He showed little reaction after sentencing, chatting with his attorney afterward.
Greywind was a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and her family has ties to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, two North Dakota groups that traveled to the Fargo area to search for Greywind after the attack. Her death prompted former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to introduce Savanna’s Act, which aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases and create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native American women. The bill is currently in limbo.
Hoehn’s murder trial seemed to turn on gripping testimony from Crews, who told the court that she had pretended to be pregnant because she was afraid of losing Hoehn and that when he figured out she was lying, he told her she needed “to produce a baby.” Crews said she believed this was “an ultimatum.”
Crews said she never “explicitly” told Hoehn what she planned to do, and that he appeared surprised when he arrived home to find a newborn and a bleeding Greywind in their bathroom. But she said after discovering the bloody scene, he fetched a rope and twisted it around Greywind’s neck to make sure she was dead, an assertion that was disputed by a fellow inmate of Crews who testified Crews told her in prison that she handled the rope by herself.
Hoehn testified that he had believed Crews when she told him she was pregnant and that he had been elated when he returned home and heard a baby crying.