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ND secretary of state candidate drops out, raising questions about GOP's next steps

Read Savanna's killer's handwritten letter of apology

Forum Communications web graphic1 / 6
Brooke Crews pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit murder of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and kidnap her baby during a hearing with her lawyer Steven Mottinger on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in District Court, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 6
A letter from Brooke Crews, who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, was dated Dec. 15, 2017, and sent from the Cass County Jail to Forum reporter Blake Gumprecht. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 6
A letter from Brooke Crews, who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, was dated Dec. 15, 2017, and sent from the Cass County Jail to Forum reporter Blake Gumprecht. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor4 / 6
A letter from Brooke Crews, who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, was dated Dec. 15, 2017, and sent from the Cass County Jail to Forum reporter Blake Gumprecht. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor5 / 6
Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind in a photo taken from her Facebook page. It was posted in March 2016. 6 / 6

FARGO — Brooke Lynn Crews, who pleaded guilty last week to murdering Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and abducting her newborn daughter, said in a letter from the Cass County Jail, "I am ashamed of what I've done" and that she intends to apologize to the victim's family in person at her sentencing.

The letter came in response to a letter written by this reporter requesting a jailhouse interview with Crews. It was the second such letter sent. The first was sent Sept. 27 but received no reply. The second was sent on Dec. 12, the day after Crews pleaded guilty.

Her reply, handwritten and printed neatly in pencil, arrived on Wednesday, Dec. 20. The seven-paragraph letter is a page and a half in length. It was addressed, "Dear Mr. Gumprecht," and was signed, "Sincerely, Brooke Lynn Crews."

Crews declined the request to be interviewed and said if she were ever willing to talk, she would not do so until after the trial of co-defendant William Henry Hoehn, her live-in boyfriend at the time of their arrest. Like Crews, Hoehn has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the case. His trial is scheduled to begin March 20.

"There is a possibility that I may be called on to testify," she wrote. "I don't want to jepardize (sic) the State's case with anything that I might say."

Responding to this reporter's offer to tell her story, Crews replied, "I do not feel that this is, in any way, my story. I don't think I'm entitled to be heard in any manner. My actions devastated a family and shocked the community that I called home."

Crews' letter is carefully written, clear, and to the point. She accepts responsibility for her actions and expresses regret for what she did. She also states that she is reluctant to tell her story because "I would not want to give the impression that I'm attempting to make excuses for my horrible actions."

She asked The Forum not to publish anything from her letter until after her sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 16, "so that I may have the opportunity to apologize to the Greywind family in person." Forum editors, however, decided that the public has a right to know the contents of the letter because of the impact that this high-profile case has had on the Fargo-Moorhead community.

Crews, 38, lived upstairs from LaFontaine-Greywind in a three-story apartment building at 2825 9th St. N. in Fargo. LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, lived in a basement apartment with her parents and siblings. Crews and Hoehn lived in an apartment on the third floor.

On Aug. 19, LaFontaine-Greywind went upstairs while eight months pregnant after Crews asked her to model a dress she was sewing. She was reported missing later that same day. After eight days of intensive searching, her body was found in the Red River.

Five days after she disappeared, Fargo police raided the Crews-Hoehn apartment and arrested Crews. They found a newborn baby girl in her possession. DNA tests later proved that the child belonged to LaFontaine-Greywind and her boyfriend, Ashton Matheny. Matheny was awarded custody of the baby, named Haisley Jo.

In declining the interview request, Crews said, "To be sure, I've personally got a story and certainly, that story influenced my ability to control impulses and make proper decisions; especially since 2014." She does not indicate in the letter what happened in that year that impacted her so greatly, but that is apparently the year in which she began dating Hoehn.

The couple had a stormy relationship, according to court records and neighbors in their apartment building. In May 2016, police reported the couple had a fight that led to Hoehn throwing Crews into the bathtub. He pleaded guilty to simple assault and was ordered to have no contact with Crews.

Six months later, police came to the apartment again in response to a report of a disturbance and found Hoehn with Crews. He later pleaded guilty to violating the no-contact order.

In court documents, Crews said she was "unemployed due to illness." She added, "I've been ill for quite a while with no family able to help." She didn't identify the nature of her illness.

Crews acknowledged in her letter to this reporter that she does have a compelling story. "I can assure you," she wrote, "that the truth of my history is far, far stranger than fiction. It's a truth I've spent most of my life trying to forget."

She says in parentheses after that last sentence, "think 80's Florida foster care." A Florida man who is the father of one of Crews' children — she reportedly has at least seven kids — said after her arrest that she had a rootless childhood, bouncing in and out of foster care. He said Crews never used that to justify her behavior. He said she had a powerful temper, but was rarely violent.

Even while recognizing that she has a story to tell, Crews repeatedly says in her letter that she does not have a right to say anything, at least not yet, because of the gravity of her crime.

"There are many things that I'd like to say but I'm ashamed of what I've done," Crews wrote. "Because of this shame and with a good amount of humility, I don't feel I have the right to say a damn thing except, 'I'm sorry.'"

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