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Crews 'took an angel from us': Family, boyfriend of LaFontaine-Greywind describe pain of loss at sentencing

Norberta Greywind, mother of slain Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, hugs high-profile California attorney Gloria Allred following the sentencing of Brooke Lynn Crews on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, in district court, Fargo, for Savanna’s murder in August. (Ann Arbor Miller / Forum News Service)1 / 4
Kayla Greywind, sister of slain Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, sits in the courthouse during a family press conference following the sentencing of Brooke Lynn Crews on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, in district court, Fargo, for Savanna’s murder in August. (Ann Arbor Miller / Forum News Service)2 / 4
Norberta Greywind wears an earring with her daughter Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind’s image to the sentencing of Brooke Lynn Crews on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, in district court, Fargo, for Savanna’s murder in August. (Ann Arbor Miller / Forum News Service)3 / 4
Rocky Littlewind Sr. of Spirit Lake Reservation, N.D., waits for family members of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind to arrive for the sentencing of Brooke Lynn Crews on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, in district court, Fargo, for Savanna's August murder. "There will be a time for forgiveness," he said. "Today is a day of justice." (Ann Arbor Miller / Forum News Service)4 / 4

FARGO — The last five months have been the hardest of Ashton Matheny's life.

With the muscles in his cheek and jaw twitching as he clamped down on his sorrow and anger, the boyfriend of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and father of their 5-month-old child, Haisley Jo, thanked Judge Frank Racek for sentencing Brooke Lynne Crews on Friday, Feb. 2, to life in prison for her part in Savanna's violent, painful death.

"I'd like to thank Judge Racek for not showing any lenience towards Brooke," Matheny said in the rotunda of the Cass County Courthouse after the sentencing.

"After finding out what happened to Savanna and how my daughter was born, it kind of tore me apart. It still does," he said.

"Our seven-year anniversary is coming up on March 20. Every day I'm reminded of her more and more," as Haisley Jo grows to look more and more like her mother.

Matheny said he hopes no one else has to face such a trying ordeal.

"By far the hardest thing I've ever done. By far. I hope no one else in this community, in the United States, in the world, ever has to endure the pain that I do, that the Greywinds have to," he said.

Savanna's sister, 19-year-old Kayla Greywind, said she wished Crews' sentence could have been death.

"Brooke Crews does not deserve to live. That's all I have to say and that's how I feel. Savanna deserved life. She deserved to be a mother to her child," she said.

"Brooke Crews, I feel like she shouldn't even (have) been talking. She didn't have a reason at all to cry in court," Kayla Greywind said.

Earlier, the mood in the packed courtroom had been somber and subdued, with three uniformed officers at the front by the bar, and two more by the main doors. More than 50 family and friends of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind sat in the visitors' gallery.

Tears ran down their cheeks and sniffles turned to small, choked sobs as a prosecutor described how Crews had admitted she had lured Savanna to her apartment in mid-August, fought with the pregnant 22-year-old, then cut open her womb to take her child. At some point after, without medical care, Savanna died, the prosecutor said.

High-profile California attorney Gloria Allred, legal counsel for Savanna's family, held written victim impact statements for Savanna's mother, Norberta LaFontaine-Greywind, to read aloud in court.

"I miss her laugh, I miss her so much," the mother said between tears. "I heard about people saying the pain of losing a child is like no other pain. I now know that pain. My heart is broken."

"The crimes against my sister have broken me, and I will never be the same," Kayla Greywind said.

Allred read a statement from Savanna's father, Joe Greywind, who had opted to stay outside of the courtroom until Crews was sentenced. The father pleaded for the judge to sentence Crews to the maximum sentence.

"Our family is trying to heal, but we find it nearly impossible," Greywind wrote. "Brooke Crews by her horrific, criminal acts took an angel from us."

"As a husband and a father, I did everything I could to protect my family ever since I moved to Fargo, but unfortunately I could not protect Savanna from my neighbor, Brooke Crews," the father wrote.

Krista Andrews, Matheny's attorney, came before the court with Haisley Jo on her lap. As Andrews told the court how difficult this has been for Matheny, the baby sat quietly, playing with the attorney's hands and looking curiously around the courtroom.

Haisley Jo recently received her Native American name, which translates to "survivor," Andrews said.

In December, Crews pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and providing false information to police.

When it came time for Crews to speak during Friday's sentencing, she said she was taking responsibility for her actions. "I wish I hadn't done this," she said.

When Crews finished, Matheny got up and stalked out of the courtroom, shaking his head and not looking back.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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