A North Dakota woman who admitted killing a pregnant neighbor and cutting the baby from the womb while the mother was still alive was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Brooke Crews, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder and lying to law officers in the August death of Savanna Greywind, 22, of Fargo. Crews did not have a plea deal with prosecutors, but hoped that admitting responsibility at a December hearing would help her at Friday's sentencing.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of life in prison with no parole, saying Crews admitted to cutting out the baby while Greywind went in and out of consciousness. Greywind bled to death, according to Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Leah Jo Viste.
Defense attorney Steven Mottinger asked for a sentence of life with parole.
"Acceptance of responsibility is important," Mottinger said. "It has to mean something."
Crews appeared in court in orange prison clothing, cuffed at the wrists, and read a statement of apology.
"There is no excuse. There is no rationalization. There is nothing," she said.
She had no visible reaction when State District Judge Frank Racek handed down the sentence.
Greywind was eight months pregnant when she disappeared in August, sparking extensive searches. Kayakers found her body wrapped in plastic in a river. The baby was found alive in the apartment Crews shared with her 32-year-old boyfriend, William Hoehn.
Hoehn has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in March.
Greywind's mother, Norberta LaFontaine-Greywind, said during the sentencing hearing that what Crews did was "beyond evil" and that "I don't feel there is any court sentence that would ever be strong enough."
Fargo Police Chief Dave Todd earlier called Greywind's death a "cruel and vicious act of depravity."
Crews initially claimed that Greywind gave up her newborn daughter, but she later admitted taking advantage of the woman to get the child, according to court documents.
Hoehn told police he came home on 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 told police he took garbage bags containing bloody shoes and his bloody towels and disposed them away from the apartment complex.
The baby is now in the custody of her father, Ashton Matheny, who was Greywind's boyfriend.
A bill in Congress aimed at protecting Native American women and girls from violence, abduction and human trafficking is named for Greywind. Savanna's Act, introduced by Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp would improve tribal access to certain federal crime information databases and create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.
It also would require an annual report that would include statistics on missing and murdered Native American women.