Preliminary autopsy results show 'homicidal violence' in death of Fargo woman
FARGO – Preliminary results of an autopsy on Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, the Fargo woman who disappeared while eight months pregnant, show that she died from “homicidal violence,” police said Tuesday, Aug. 29.
Fargo Deputy Police Chief Joseph Anderson said no other information about the autopsy could be released because it would compromise the investigation. “Many of the facts of this case won’t be known to the media or the public until released at the trial,” he said.
Police have not divulged any information on whether the baby was born naturally, whether it was induced early, or taken from LaFontaine-Greywind violently.
The 22-year-old’s body was found in the Red River eight days after she went missing. Authorities recovered it on the Minnesota banks, so her autopsy is being conducted by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office in St. Paul.
Family members said on Tuesday that funeral arrangements have not yet been made because of the uncertainty about when the body will be returned to the family.
Tarita Silk, the woman’s aunt, said the funeral will likely take place on the Spirit Lake Reservation near Devils Lake. LaFontaine-Greywind was a member of the Spirit Lake tribe and grew up on the reservation. Her father is a Spirit Lake member, while her mom is a member of the Turtle Mountain Tribe of Chippewa Indians.Abandoned farmhouse
LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared on Saturday, Aug. 19, after going upstairs in her north Fargo apartment building to help a neighbor who, according to family, asked her to model a dress that the neighbor was sewing. She was not seen again until her body was discovered.
On Thursday, Aug. 24, police entered the neighbor’s apartment by force, arrested one of the tenants, Brooke Crews, and found a healthy newborn baby girl that is believed to have belonged to LaFontaine-Greywind. That same day, police arrested Crews’ live-in boyfriend, William Hoehn, at his place of employment. But LaFontaine-Greywind remained missing despite intensive searching.
Kayakers came across her body in the Red River on Sunday night, Aug. 27. About the same time, volunteer searchers uncovered what police said were suspicious items at an abandoned farmhouse nearby in rural Clay County. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted an extensive search of the property.
On Tuesday, Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said the searches of the abandoned farmhouse have been completed, but no information is yet available about what was found.
“They’ve gathered materials, and now they’re looking at them,” he said. “At this point, we don’t have any answers.”
The farmhouse is located at 1575 90th Ave. NW in rural Clay County, just east of the Red River, about 9 miles north of downtown Fargo. The property owner, William Borgen of Moorhead, said the farmhouse has been unoccupied for 15 to 20 years. His family farmed there for 30 years, and he bought the property about a decade ago. He retired from farming three years ago. He still hunts there, as does Sheriff Bergquist, who is a friend.
The property encompasses about 200 acres and includes about 140 acres of farmland, which is rented. Borgen said he had removed several buildings on the property, but had left the house in hopes that its presence would discourage people from trespassing. But he said the house has been “somewhat destroyed” by vandals and people taking copper and other items of value.
Borgen said he’s occasionally found people living on the property in vehicles.Baby in protective custody
The two suspects, Crews and Hoehn, were formally charged on Monday, Aug. 28. They were each charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and providing false information to police. Both are being held at the Cass County Jail on $2 million bail. Crews’ attorney, Steven Mottinger, declined to comment on the case Tuesday. Hoehn’s attorney, Stormy Vickers, did not return a phone message.
The baby found by police in the suspects’ apartment remains in the protective custody of Cass County Social Services.
The suspects told police that the child belonged to LaFontaine-Greywind. However, DNA tests are being conducted to determine whether she and her boyfriend, Ashton Matheny, are the parents. Fargo police Lt. Jason Nelson said on Monday that results of the tests may not be available until next week.
Matheny said he attended a shelter hearing about the child on Tuesday, but would not say what happened at the hearing. North Dakota law requires that a shelter hearing take place within 96 hours of a child being placed in shelter care to determine whether a child should remain in shelter care. It’s possible the child was placed in shelter care until custody can be awarded.
The policies of Cass County Social Services prohibit the agency from releasing any information about children under its care.
Events continue to be held in memory of LaFontaine-Greywind. Three memorials are planned for 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30: one at the North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck, another at the White Shield community on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, and a third at Nickeus Park in Jamestown. Ceremonies were held on Tuesday in Grand Forks and on Monday in Fargo, Belcourt, N.D., and Sisseton, S.D.
Others are honoring her memory in diverse ways, including selling T-shirts and window decals with some or all of the proceeds going to the family.
The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition in Fargo is selling red light bulbs for $5 and asking the public to light them at their homes for eight nights, the number of nights she was missing. The color red is used to recognize indigenous women who go missing or are murdered. The red bulbs can be purchased at the group’s office at 4211 12th Ave. N.