Savanna Greywind was eagerly documenting her pregnancy on social media before she went missing in North Dakota.
Law | National

Two charged in connection with kidnapping and murder of Spirit Lake Nation woman





A North Dakota couple is facing kidnapping and murder charges in connection with the death of a young citizen of the Spirit Lake Nation whose disappearance gripped Indian Country over the past week.

Savannah Marie Greywind, 22, was last seen in Fargo on August 19, raising alarms among family and friends who were concerned about her safety and that of her unborn child. She was eight months pregnant at the time and was eagerly documenting her progress on social media.

As family questioned the police department's commitment to finding their loved one, the case took a dramatic turn on Thursday. Authorities confirmed the discovery of an infant in the same apartment complex where Greywind lived and where she had last been seen alive.

Two people -- Brooke Lynn Crews, 38, and William Henry Hoehn, 32 -- were taken into custody but there was still no information regarding Greywind's whereabouts.

After eight days of efforts by volunteers -- most of them from tribal communities in North Dakota -- and by law enforcement, Greywind's body was discovered in the Red River on Sunday afternoon. Fargo Police Chief David Todd said the young victim had been "heavily wrapped in plastic and duct tape" when she was found by recreational kayakers.

At around the same time, Todd said a group of volunteers alerted authorities in the neighboring state of Minnesota about an abandoned farm just south of the area where Greywind was found. Police arrived and found "suspicious items" that indicate a crime may have occurred there, he said.

"Our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the Greywind family as they suffer through this horrible loss," Todd said during a press conference on Monday morning. "As the chief, I speak on behalf of the entire police department, and I'll tell you our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of this young lady."

Todd said the investigation is still ongoing but it's already shaping up to be a complex affair, involving authorities in two states. Depending on where the case goes, the federal government could even be drawn in.

"We will continue to pursue justice for Savannah," Todd said. "Savannah was a victim of a cruel and vicious act of depravity."

Posted by Fargo Police Department on Monday, August 28, 2017
Fargo Police Department on Facebook: Savanna Greywind Press Conference

For now, State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said Crews and Hoehn are facing three charges each in Cass County, North Dakota: conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and providing false information to law enforcement. The defendants appeared in court on Monday afternoon but were not required to enter any pleas.

While federal charges at this point are speculative, they would not be unprecedented. The 2003 murder of Dru Sjodin was prosecuted in federal court because the victim -- who incidentally was 22 years old at the time -- was kidnapped in North Dakota and taken into Minnesota. The perpetrator was eventually convicted and sentenced to death, an option not available under North Dakota or Minnesota law.

The scene in Minnesota is still being processed and authorities were tight-lipped on the evidence that leads them to believe it may be connected to Greywind's death. Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist his officers are conducting a search in a wide area around the abandoned farm.

"There is an old abandoned house there, there's barns there, there's other buildings there," Bergquist said at the press conference. He knows the owner of the property but said it hadn't been occupied in "years -- 20, 30 maybe."

The volunteers who ended up at the site found a "very, very suspicious" scene, the sheriff added. "That's what brought us there," he said.

William Hoehn, 32, and Brooke Crews, 38, are charged in connection with the disappearance and death of Savanna Greywind. Photos: Fargo Police Department

Frustrated with the handling of the case, volunteers came from the Spirit Lake Nation, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to help look for Greywind in the last week. Greywind was enrolled at Spirit Lake, where her father is a citizen. Her mother is from Turtle Mountain.

"Our prayers and deepest condolences go out to the families of Savannah Greywind. These tragedies happen far too often to our sisters, mothers, daughters.We send love and strength to her beautiful daughter and loved ones," the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a post on Facebook on Monday. "Let's stand together and demand justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and their families."

The high numbers of missing and murdered Native women have prompted calls for the federal government to do more to address the situation. A key first step, advocates believe, is the establishment of a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

Despite bipartisan support for such an effort, a bill to designate May 5 as the National Day of Awareness has failed to gain significant traction during the last two sessions of Congress. The day was chosen in honor of the birthday of Hanna Harris, a young citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who was murdered at the age of 21 in 2013.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs was due to consider trafficking in Indian Country at a hearing last month but the session was abruptly canceled due to partisan bickering on an unrelated issue. Just days prior, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that Native women suffer from the second-highest homicide rate in the United States. Most of the victims are young -- between the ages of 18 and 29, according to the data.

Related Stories:
Sarah Sunshine Manning: Indian Country grieves for our sister Savanna Greywind (August 28, 2017)
Opinion: International treaty can help protect indigenous women from violence (August 4, 2017)
Mary Annette Pember: Canada's inquiry into missing and murdered sisters in trouble (August 3, 2017)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs cancels business meeting and hearing (July 26, 2017)
Report confirms Native women suffer from high rate of homicide in United States (July 24, 2017)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules hearing on human trafficking (July 17, 2017)
Northern Cheyenne Tribe hosts walk for missing and murdered sisters (May 2, 2017)
More data needed to address human trafficking in Indian Country (April 19, 2017)
Attorney General vows help for public safety in Indian Country (April 18, 2017)
Zinke cites 'heart-breaking' crime rates against Native women (April 18, 2017)
Native women push for more action on missing and murdered sisters (February 16, 2017)
Native women host Capitol Hill briefing on missing and murdered sisters (February 15, 2017)