LaFontaine-Greywind murder trial delayed until May; change of venue possible
FARGO – The trial of William Henry Hoehn, charged in the murder of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and the abduction of her newborn baby, has been postponed until May.
The trial was originally scheduled to start March 20, but Judge Tom Olson and attorneys in the case agreed at a status conference on Tuesday, Jan. 16, that the date was unrealistic because of information that still needs to be obtained and the desire to send a questionnaire to prospective jurors. After the conference, a new trial start date of May 15 was set.
Olson met with prosecutor Leah Viste and defense attorney Daniel Borgen in the conference, which was held Tuesday in Cass County District Court. Hoehn attended the conference but did not speak, nor was he asked any questions.
Hoehn has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and providing false information to police in the case. LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, disappeared from her north Fargo apartment in August while eight months pregnant. Her body was found eight days later in the Red River.
Hoehn, 32, lived with his girlfriend, Brooke Lynn Crews, in the same apartment building as LaFontaine-Greywind. LaFontaine-Greywind’s newborn baby was found in the possession of Crews when police raided their apartment five days after the woman disappeared. Crews in December pleaded guilty to the same charges Hoehn faces.
Borgen told Judge Olson at Tuesday’s conference that the March 20 trial date was “overly ambitious” because information needed by the defense isn’t yet available. Judge Olson agreed. “To say that the March 20 date is ambitious,” Olson said, “is probably an understatement.”
Prosecutor Viste said some lab results in the case still have not been returned from an FBI lab in Quantico, Va., and are not expected until mid-February. In addition, Borgen said he intends to depose Crews, but cannot do that until after she is sentenced. Her sentencing is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 2.
All parties agreed at the conference to create a juror questionnaire that will be distributed by mail to potential jurors in order to reduce the time spent in the courtroom on jury selection. That also made postponement necessary, since it would have been difficult to complete the questionnaire process by March 20.
Borgen said he believed a questionnaire would be valuable “because of the high publicity … and the large community involvement.” He also raised the issue of a possible change in venue for the trial because the publicity in the case may make it difficult to form a jury in Cass County. “The questionnaire would be appropriate to assess whether there would be a need for that,” he said.
Judge Olson also ordered that a pretrial conference be held in February to consider questions to be included on the questionnaire and other procedural matters. The pretrial conference was later scheduled for Friday, Feb. 9.