Fargo Police Chief responds to criticism over Savanna Greywind Search
FARGO — When Fargo Police first heard the name Savanna Greywind, they were taking a missing person's report.
It's a fairly common practice for patrol officers, but this time would end in a way officers could never imagine.
The investigation started on Aug. 19, 2017, when the police "didn't have any reason to believe that something happened to her," said Fargo Police Chief David Todd.
The Fargo Police Department's efforts continued throughout the weekend during three separate searches at William Hoehn and Brooke Crews' apartment.
Three different employees with Fargo PD — including a detective, a lieutenant and a patrol officer — did not find anything unusual in the first 30 hours of the investigation during consent searches.
During Hoehn's murder conspiracy trial, Hoehn told police Greywind's abducted baby was in the apartment when police were there, but "didn't see it."
He also told investigators that Crews made a bed for the baby out of the suitcase.
Both Crews and Hoehn admitted Savanna's body was wrapped in plastic and stowed in a bathroom closet.
She would later be moved to a hollowed-out dresser in the couple's bedroom.
When Todd was asked if this was acceptable, he said, "Well, I think we always ask ourselves how we could do better, but I think people need to keep in context that during that time, we were looking for an alive and well 8-month pregnant adult female."
"How do you think of something like that? Where you knock somebody out and incapacitate them?" he said.
During the initial searches, officers likely couldn't fathom how unthinkable the crime truly was. "You don't think that a dresser has been taken apart and she has been stuffed into a dresser. You don't think to look in those places."
Fargo police could have asked Crews and Hoehn to look more closely in their apartment, but that request would have brought its own risks.
"We're balancing some things, like if we appear to be too aggressive, there is always a chance they would put the brakes on," Todd said. "They can say, 'Nope, I'm not going to allow you into my property.' "
At that point in the investigation, the department dedicated its whole investigative team to finding Savanna: 35 detectives, four sergeants, two lieutenants, one deputy chief and patrol officers.
"That's a considerable amount of resources when the case was active and ongoing up to the point where we conducted our last search," Todd said.
Investigators feared the couple may have been holding Savanna hostage until she gave birth to her child to keep the baby for themselves.
With the entire team working around the clock, investigators began tracking Hoehn and Crews with GPS tracking, drones, and surveillance.
Once they had enough evidence to create a theory or "nexus" to the crime, the Department applied for a search warrant to the couple's apartment and vehicles.
"We thought that if they were going somewhere, it would be where they were holding Savanna and that might lead us to where she was," Todd said. "We were a little bit afraid that if we popped the warrant too quickly and they lawyered up, we would never find out where Savanna was if she was being held somewhere."
Reflecting on the case over a year later, Todd said they're still debriefing from the investigation and taking away lessons that can be used in the future.
When asked if his investigators made mistakes in this case, Todd said, "I don't know. I'm sure there are things in hindsight that we wish we would have done differently, but I couldn't tell you what those are ... Would it have changed the outcome? No, Savanna was already dead. Would it have wrapped the case faster? Yes, it would have."