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William Hoehn
William Hoehn enters the courtroom on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Cass County District Court in Fargo, N.D., during his trial on a charge of conspiring to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, whose baby was cut from her womb. (David Samson/The Forum via AP, Pool)

North Dakota man denies helping kill pregnant woman

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A man on trial in the death of a North Dakota woman whose baby was cut from her womb denied any role in her death, testifying Thursday that when he walked into his apartment and heard a baby cry, he thought his girlfriend had given birth.

William Hoehn, 33, disputed testimony from his now ex-girlfriend, Brooke Crews, that he took any part in the August 2017 slaying of Savanna Greywind, 22. Crews pleaded guilty to murder earlier this year and is serving life in prison.

Hoehn is charged with conspiracy to commit murder. He has admitted he helped to cover up the crime but denied knowing anything about Crews' plans to kill Greywind.

Crews testified this week that she didn't "explicitly" tell Hoehn what she planned to do, but said when he walked in on a bloody scene in the couple's apartment bathroom, he got a rope and twisted it around Greywind's neck to make sure she was dead. The judge said this testimony could be taken as evidence that Hoehn had agreed to participate in the crime.

When Hoehn was asked by his attorney, Daniel Borgen, whether he had any agreement with Crews to kill Greywind and take her baby, Hoehn said: "Absolutely not. No, no, no."

Crews also testified that she had faked a pregnancy in order to keep from losing Hoehn, and that when he figured out she was lying, she felt pressured to get a baby. Hoehn disputed that, saying he believed Crews was pregnant until the day of Greywind's death.

Hoehn looked frequently at the jury as he described arriving home that day and hearing a baby.

"It wasn't a wail, it wasn't like a cry or nothing," he said. "It was a distinct baby sound. I remember feeling elated and I thought, 'Oh my god, she had the baby when I was at work.' "

Hoehn said after he walked into the bathroom, he asked Crews, "Were you even pregnant?" He said she grabbed her stomach and said, "I think so."

Prosecutors attacked Hoehn's credibility, citing his conflicting stories to police after his arrest and suggesting that his previous run-ins with the law made him adept at dealing with investigators.

"I wouldn't say I'm savvy about it. I've had a little experience, yes," said Hoehn. He also testified that Crews sometimes to referred to him as "baby beater" because he had pleaded guilty in 2011 to a child abuse conviction for fracturing his young son's skull.

When Cass County prosecutor Leah Viste suggested that Hoehn and Crews would do anything for each other, Hoehn said they had boundaries.

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 slain Native American women . A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

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