A man whose girlfriend murdered a pregnant woman and cut out her unborn baby has been acquitted of the most serious charges in connection with the case, The Forum newspaper reports.
A jury in Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday found William Hoehn not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping, although he still faces prison time for helping cover up the crimes.
The determination comes after an eight-day trial in which prosecutors asserted Hoehn, 33, helped plan the August 2017 attack.
Hoehn said he came home to find his girlfriend, Brooke Crews, on the floor next to the victim, 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was bleeding from being cut open.
She subsequently died and her body was later found in a nearby river.
LaFontaine-Greywind lived in the same apartment building as Hoehn and Crews. Investigators believe Crews lured LaFontaine-Greywind into their apartment before attacking her.
Crews was reportedly desperate for a child and had previously faked being pregnant; she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping and is now serving life in prison.
Prosecutor Leah Viste told WDAY-TV after the verdict that proving conspiracy can be challenging.
“When you choose a career in the law, you recognize that the whole ball doesn’t reside with you and that part of the process of the jury procedure in the United States is that peers get to make that determination,” Viste said.
“I think that you can feel disappointed, but at the same time accept the process if you feel that you’ve gotten everything in [to the jurors] in the case. And in this particular instance everything was available for the jury to review.”
Hoehn earlier this month pleaded guilty to kidnapping and giving false information to police, crimes that could bring up to 20 years of prison time.
Had Hoehn been convicted of the conspiracy charges, he could have been sentenced to life in prison.
Daniel Borgen, Hoehn’s lawyer, asked him whether he made an arrangement to murder LaFontaine-Greywind for her baby.
“Absolutely not,” Hoehn said. “No, no, no.”