'We Are Savanna' pre-sentencing rally draws heavy hearts hopeful for justice
FARGO — On the eve of sentencing for one of two suspects in the killing of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, loved ones came together to share their hopes that justice is served.
The "We Are Savanna" rally Thursday, Feb. 1, drew a crowd of nearly 70 people to Fargo's Sanctuary Events Center. Hanging above the beating drum circle, a banner read "In Our Hearts Always," with a photo of LaFontaine-Greywind surrounded by angel wings.
It's been five months since 22-year-old LaFontaine-Greywind was killed while eight months pregnant and her daughter, Haisley Jo, was abducted. The heinous crimes shook the community and through prayers and songs shared Thursday night, hearts are still grieving.
But there were smiles among the tears with all eyes on Haisley Jo, who was at the event with her father, Ashton Matheny, and grandparents, Joe and Norberta Greywind.
"Haisley Jo is never going to have a mother like Savanna," said Janel Herald, spokeswoman for the LaFontaine-Greywind family, who requested no comments to media.
Herald and others said they hoped at the sentencing of Brooke Lynn Crews on Friday, Feb. 2, in Cass County District Court that she would get the maximum penalty: life in prison without the possibility of parole. Herald said the rally was an opportunity for those affected by LaFontaine-Greywind's death to create a community impact statement so that Judge Frank Racek knows the tragedy touched all of Fargo and North Dakota, as well as family and friends.
Ashley Hunt, a cousin of LaFontaine-Greywind, shared how close her 5-year-old daughter, Odessa, was with LaFontaine-Greywind and hopes she is as close with Haisley Jo. Jordan Sowatzki, a friend of LaFontaine-Greywind since sixth grade, said LaFontaine-Greywind had a contagious laugh and her loss has caused "a lifetime of grief."
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney wore a red scarf like others in red shirts and jackets in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women. He said the color serves as "a sign that we need to wake up as a community."
"Savanna is us. Savanna is a part of us," he said. "Yeah, I'm angry. I'm very angry this happened because that's not the Fargo I know. It hurt us all and it will take us a long time to heal."
A representative from U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's office read a statement bringing awareness to the epidemic of the exploitation, violence and murder of indigenous women. Heitkamp introduced in October the Savanna Act, which intends to provide tribes with appropriate funding and resources to address the crisis.