FARGO — A grisly Chicago case of murder and fetal abduction is reminding people of what happened in Fargo two years ago to 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind.
Chicago police made arrests this week in connection with the homicide of 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, who was nine months pregnant when she went missing on April 23.
That day, a 46-year-old woman contacted Ochoa-Lopez via social media to exchange baby clothes and a stroller. Hours later, the older woman called 911 saying she gave birth to a baby boy who wasn't breathing.
The baby, whose DNA matches Ochoa-Lopez, remains in critical condition with brain damage.
After missing for three weeks, Ochoa-Lopez's body was found Wednesday, May 15, in a garbage can where the 911 call originated. Authorities say she was strangled to death and her baby was cut from her womb.
LaFontaine-Greywind was eight months pregnant when she was lured to her neighbor Brooke Crews' north Fargo apartment where she, too, was killed and her baby was cut from her womb in August 2017.
Gloria Allred, a high-profile women's rights attorney who provided legal counsel to the Greywind family, stated that violence against pregnant women must not continue because, "If pregnant women are not safe, none of us are safe."
"It is shocking that there continues to be so much violence against pregnant women. When women are pregnant, they are very vulnerable, and young pregnant women are the most vulnerable of all pregnant women because they are usually in need of economic assistance. They often do not have a job and are in school. When they hear that someone is offering financial assistance by giving them a job or a gift, it is understandable that they would want to accept the offer that is made to them. That is what appears to have happened in Savanna’s case and in the Chicago case," Allred wrote.
She continued: "At this point, there appears to be a trend of victimization of pregnant women in the most brutal and horrific manner. Those who are found guilty of these unspeakable crimes must be brought to justice and they must pay a heavy price for their criminal conduct."
Crews, 39, was arrested in her Fargo apartment while in possession of LaFontaine-Greywind's newborn daughter, Haisley Jo, and LaFontaine-Greywind's body was discovered days later in the Red River. Crews, who put on a guise of being pregnant, is serving a life sentence.
Crews' boyfriend, William Hoehn, is appealing his life sentence after pleading guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to commit kidnapping and a misdemeanor charge of lying to police in connection with LaFontaine-Greywind’s death.
Cass County prosecutor Leah Viste said the case has been on her mind lately as she is preparing for Hoehn's appeal argument slated for May 28. When she first heard about the Ochoa-Lopez case on Thursday, May 16, Viste said "a lot of memories came to mind."
“Our entire community upon hearing this will have a lot of memories of that time in our own city," she said. "It’s something that touches people so deeply. You hear about something like this and there are no words. It’s so horrific."
Viste said "it makes me sick" to think that an "incomprehensible" crime like this would be happening again two years later. There have been an estimated 17 cases of fetal abduction recorded in the U.S. since 1974.
Like LaFontaine-Greywind, whose cause of death was exsanguination, or bleeding out, with a rope found around her neck, Viste said, Ochoa-Lopez was strangled. Viste said the cases are also similar in that the babies were both found alive before their deceased mothers.
"It speaks to how lucky we are that Haisley Jo survived. In our case, through the grace of God or whatever force came out of it, it's absolutely remarkable given the situation," she said. "Nobody can even imagine something like this occurring. So my heart goes out to this family and prayers for this baby."