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Tenants reflect on living in building where LaFontaine-Greywind was murdered

The north Fargo apartment building where Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind was murdered, seen here a year later on Friday, August 10, 2018, has become home to several new tenants since the event. Erin Bormett / Forum News Service1 / 4
Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared Aug. 19, 2017, and was found dead in the Red River Aug. 27. Submitted photo2 / 4
A label with the Greywind name remains inside the mailbox designated for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind's apartment. Erin Bormett / Forum News Service3 / 4
Prints of the Chinese symbols for peace and love hang on the wall on the top floor of the north Fargo apartment building where Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind was murdered. Erin Bormett / Forum News Service4 / 4

FARGO — When Bryan Shea moved a few weeks ago, he didn't know the backstory of the apartment building he was hauling boxes and belongings into.

"Want to know what tipped me off?" Shea said as he sifted through a crowded keyring in the entryway while on break from his work running an insulation company.

Shea opened his mailbox and pointed to a fading sticker inside that reads, "Greywind."

"I knew I recognized that name from somewhere," he said.

A quick "Greywind" Google search along with the apartment address revealed shocking information.

On Aug. 19, 2017, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind left the apartment Shea now occupies and never returned. She was eight months pregnant and lived with her parents and siblings in one of the basement units.

Brooke Crews lured LaFontaine-Greywind into apartment No. 5 under the guise of helping with a sewing project, but instead Crews committed heinous crimes here: murdering LaFontaine-Greywind and her newborn child via crude cesarean section, which Crews admitted to in court earlier this year.

Three days before LaFontaine-Greywind's body was pulled from the Red River on Aug. 27 came a bombshell discovery: police found a newborn baby in apartment No. 5.

The tenant in Crews' former apartment declined to talk about what it's like living where the crime took place.

'This is my home'

Inside the apartment building, an overwhelming odor of cigarettes greets people and music playing in one unit shakes the walls. A dryer hums in the laundry room, which also serves as a makeshift communal library and home to a couple of dusty vacuums.

A series of framed Chinese symbols hang in the stairwell: "peace," "tranquility" and "love."

Outside, an American flag fluttering on the front stoop, full birdfeeders and plenty of potted plants give the impression of neighborhood normalcy.

Shea said he tried prying details from his landlord, Christopher Owens, to no avail. He believes the landlord should've done more to make the apartment more liveable considering the murder and heartache that drove most tenants away. Fresh paint or carpet, new appliances, anything to "help people forget," he said, but none of that happened.

Owens declined to comment.

Shea isn't sure he will stay in the apartment knowing what he knows now.

But Melissa Wermager made the choice to stay despite the tragedy.

"This is my home," she said, standing outside her apartment on a recent afternoon.

Wermager worked with Crews' boyfriend, William Hoehn, who goes on trial in September for the same charges for which Crews was convicted — conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping.

The fast-food chain where they worked is the place Hoehn told Wermager that Crews was pregnant.

She said in hindsight that the red flags were there all along: She didn't think Crews looked pregnant, but saw her collecting baby clothes at a garage sale outside the apartment.

And once, Wermager said, Crews unsuccessfully tried taking Wermager's 10-year-old stepdaughter out for ice cream.

Wermager said her interactions with the Greywind family were good, describing one time when the washing machine ate her quarters and LaFontaine-Greywind's mother, Norberta, gave her some money.

What she knew of Crews and Hoehn was the opposite; Wermager said they fought a lot and she described Crews as "a ticking time bomb."

"I think they were just looking for a kid," she said.

When police showed up at the apartment to arrest Crews and Hoehn, Wermager said she recalled hearing a small army of feet making its way up the stairs.

Then, all of a sudden, "WHAM!" She said she didn't even open her door because she knew exactly what was happening based on her own suspicions.

Today, one year later, she's haunted by the horror of what happened one floor above her.

She said she is "paranoid" and "more easily scared than before," and she is convinced the third floor of the apartment building is haunted.

She sees a therapist to cope with the trauma.

Even though Crews is serving a life sentence for the crime, Wermager still wonders who else was potentially involved.

"I just want to know who did it," she said. 

 

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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