FARGO, N.D. – A North Dakota man accused of helping to kill a pregnant woman tightened a rope around her neck after his girlfriend sliced the baby from the victim's womb, a prosecutor said Wednesday, later suggesting the girlfriend couldn't have restrained the mom-to-be alone.
William Hoehn is charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the death of 22-year-old Savanna Greywind, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed in August 2017.
Brooke Crews, who then lived with Hoehn, pleaded guilty last year in the killing and is serving life in prison without parole . Hoehn has said all along that he didn't know Crews had planned to kill Greywind.
Hoehn initially told police he arrived home Aug. 19 to find Crews cleaning up blood in their bathroom. Hoehn said Crews presented him with an infant girl and said: "This is our baby. This is our family."
Hoehn said he took garbage bags containing bloody shoes and his bloody towels and disposed of them away from the apartment complex.
Defense attorney Daniel Borgen said in his 10-minute opening statement Wednesday that Greywind was already dead when Hoehn entered the bathroom. Hoehn then helped cover up the crime, Borgen said, noting that his client has confessed to that.
"He helped her. He shouldn't have," Borgen said. "He should have immediately called police."
But prosecutor Ryan Younggren said Crews couldn't have subdued Greywind without Hoehn's help. When Hoehn entered the bathroom, Crews told him that she wasn't sure if Greywind was dead.
"He goes and gets a rope, puts it around her neck, pulls it tight and says, 'If she's not dead, she is now,'" Younggren said in a 50-minute presentation Wednesday.
Kayakers found Greywind's body in late August, wrapped in plastic and dumped in a river. It is still unclear how she ended up there. A medical examiner determined Greywind had bled to death.
Crews and Greywind had been friends, and Greywind had texted her mother shortly before she disappeared to say she was going to Crews' apartment. After Greywind was reported missing, police searched Hoehn and Crews' apartment three times in six days but found no trace of blood.
Crews originally told police that Greywind had given her the child. Crews later told police they had argued, saying she pushed Greywind down and knocked her out before cutting her open.
Crews is on a list of potential witnesses, but prosecutors have not said whether she will be called. The state called five people Wednesday, including Greywind's parents, Norberta and Joe.
Greywind's death prompted 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 . A similar bill has been introduced in the U.S. House.