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Judge: Testimony could show agreement to kill pregnant woman

September 26, 2018
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William Hoehn enters the courtroom on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Cass County District Court in Fargo, N.D., during his trial on a charge of conspiring to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose baby was cut from her womb. (David Samson/The Forum via AP, Pool)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The judge presiding over the trial of a man accused in the killing of a pregnant North Dakota woman said Wednesday that testimony from his former girlfriend could be taken as evidence that he had agreed to participate in the crime.

William Hoehn, 33, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the August 2017 death of 22-year-old Savanna Greywind, whose baby was cut from her womb. The baby survived.

Hoehn’s ex-girlfriend, Brooke Crews, testified this week that she hadn’t told Hoehn of her plans to kill Greywind and take her baby. But Crews also said that when Hoehn came up on a bloody scene in their apartment, he got a rope and wrapped it around Greywind’s neck.

After the prosecution rested its case and jurors had been dismissed, defense attorney Daniel Borgen asked Cass County Judge Tom Olson to rule that prosecutors hadn’t proven an agreement between Crews and Hoehn to commit murder.

In rejecting the motion, Olson cited Crews’ testimony about the rope. “To me, that’s agreement,” he said.

Borgen had argued that prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Greywind was still alive when Hoehn put the rope around her neck. “They haven’t,” he said.

Olson also denied a motion by prosecutors to exclude testimony of Jennifer Robinson, who’s housed in the same North Dakota women’s prison as Crews. Robinson has said that Crews told her she strangled Greywind and cut the baby out within a matter of minutes. Crews denied that claim.

Prosecutors on Wednesday called two witnesses before resting their case. They started with Phil Swan, the lead detective who summarized a timeline and evidence. That included one new exhibit, a jailhouse call when Hoehn told his mother he was worried about the death penalty.

Swan also agreed with characterizations by Borgen and prosecutor Ryan Younggren that both Hoehn and Crews were “skilled liars.”

The state wrapped up its case with Ashton Matheny, Greywind’s longtime boyfriend and the father of her baby. He said he was thinking of asking Greywind to marry him but never got the chance and never told anyone about it.

“I just wanted to surprise her,” he said.

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