Fargo-Moorhead's 10 biggest stories of 2017: Savanna's killing, Wentz's injury top the list
FARGO — The killing of a pregnant woman, carried out to claim her unborn child. An untimely injury for a North Dakota native turned star NFL quarterback. A parking lot rant caught on video that highlighted tensions over race and religion.
These are some of the most notable happenings of 2017, based on a vote of The Forum's editorial staff.
Here are summaries of the area's top news stories, ranked one through 10.
1. LaFontaine-Greywind killed; her baby kidnapped
The disappearance of 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind of Fargo and the discovery of her healthy newborn daughter days later stunned the community like never before.
LaFontaine-Greywind, who was eight months pregnant, left her family's apartment Aug. 19 for an upstairs unit rented by Brooke Crews and her boyfriend, William Hoehn.
It's believed LaFontaine-Greywind was killed so the couple could claim her baby as their own. The baby was found alive Aug. 24 in the suspects' apartment.
A search for LaFontaine-Greywind involving hundreds of volunteers produced no results. Instead, her body was found in the Red River by kayakers on Aug. 27.
Crews pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and providing false information to police. She's set to be sentenced Jan. 16.
Hoehn faces the same charges and is set for trial in March.
LaFontaine-Greywind's boyfriend, Ashton Matheny, has custody of the baby girl, who is named Haisley Jo.
2. Carson Wentz sidelined during MVP-caliber season
A dream season became one marred with uncertainty when the former Bison product, now star Philadelphia Eagles quarterback suffered a torn knee ligament while diving into the endzone during a game on Dec. 10.
Both Eagles and North Dakota State University fans let out a collective groan at the thought of Carson Wentz sitting out the rest of the season.
Wentz had surgery a few days later and tweeted to his 660,000 followers, "The comeback officially begins now!"
Though his team managed to clinch the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Eagles' hopes for a Super Bowl appearance have dimmed considerably with the loss of Wentz.
His league-leading 33 touchdown passes, however, still may give him an MVP shot.
3. Governors form task force after diversion stalls
The Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion was dealt a setback in September after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources denied a permit for a dam and a federal judge halted the project.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton convened a task force in October to work out differences.
The group agreed to some changes in the $2.2 billion diversion channel and Red River dam, but disagreed on others. Minnesota regulators said the changes move the project closer to a permit, but there are no guarantees.
Burgum, however, was optimistic after the task force's final meeting on Dec. 11.
"I think we leave here with a sense of optimism that there's some forward momentum back in a project that was stalled," he said.
4. Father denounces 'pro-white' son
Peter Tefft, of Fargo, became a face of white nationalism after attending a violent "Unite the Right" rally in August in Charlottesville, Va.
That attention paled in comparison, though, to what happened after his father publicly denounced his son's actions in a letter to The Forum.
Pearce Tefft wrote that his son was "not welcome at our family gatherings any longer," in a letter shared more than 93,000 times on Facebook.
Undeterred, Peter Tefft vowed to hold a pro-white rally in Fargo in October, but it didn't materialize.
5. Fight outside HoDo leaves man dead
On May 27 in downtown Fargo, the sound of sirens pierced the warm spring air after a fight outside the upscale HoDo Restaurant and Lounge.
Authorities said Darren Patterson got into an altercation with three men in the bar. The dispute spilled outside, and Patterson punched one of the men, Jamie Grant of Fargo, who fell backward and hit his head on the sidewalk.
The 45-year-old father and husband died nine days later, the victim of a one-punch homicide.
Patterson faces charges of felony manslaughter, felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor simple assault.
6. Woman kills boyfriend in YouTube stunt
A Minnesota couple hoping to become YouTube stars instead gained notoriety for a stunt gone horribly wrong.
On June 26 in Halstad, cameras recorded as Monalisa Perez shot and killed Pedro Ruiz III, her boyfriend and father of her two children, as he held a book to his chest.
Perez later told a sheriff's deputy that Ruiz believed the book would stop the bullet.
Before the shooting, Perez foreshadowed her boyfriend's death in a tweet stating: "Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE."
Perez has since pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. She's expected to be sentenced in February.
7. Locals caught in Las Vegas mass shooting
Nearly a dozen area people, including three Fargo couples, were at a country music concert in Las Vegas when the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history occurred.
On Oct. 1, Lisa and Jon Hanson, Chris and Matt Myrvold, and Adrianne and Beau Flom were enjoying the Route 91 Harvest Festival when a gunman opened fire on the crowd from the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel.
"Like a war movie," is how Beau Flom described the sound of gunfire in an interview with The Forum.
All six managed to get away unhurt, but a Minot, N.D., man wasn't as lucky.
Andrew Gudmunson, a former University of North Dakota baseball player, was shot and seriously injured, requiring several abdominal surgeries.
Steve Berger of Shorewood, Minn., was killed in the attack. Philip Aurich of Farmington, Minn., was critically injured but survived.
In all, 59 people died and more than 500 were wounded in the shooting.
8. Multiple stores close at West Acres mall
2017 was a year of change for the West Acres Shopping Center in southwest Fargo, near the intersection of Interstates 94 and 29.
The mall saw the closing of Sears, one of the original anchor stores when the mall opened in 1972.
Aeropostale, The Limited, New York & Co., Wet Seal, Vanity and SHU by R&G also pulled out in the last year.
West Acres CEO Brad Schlossman acknowledged the mall has been affected by national shopping trends. But he said the mall has adapted well and he sees a bright future.
9. Opioid overdoses continue to kill young people
Although opioid deaths in the metro area this year lagged behind 2016's pace, public health officials warned a single bad batch of narcotics could cause a spike in deadly overdoses.
In Cass County in 2017, the coroner's office identified 13 opioid deaths, with a few toxicology results still pending. The year prior, the county recorded 23 such deaths.
As part of those totals, Fargo police saw five fatal opioid overdoses in 2017, compared with 15 the year before.
Safety measures may have played a role in the decrease in deaths, as the overdose antidote naloxone is now more available.
10. Woman threatens Somali Americans at Walmart
An incident July 25 outside the Walmart on 13th Avenue South in Fargo became part of a national discourse centered around racial and religious tensions.
Amber Hensley, a white woman from Mapleton, N.D., was seen on video threatening three Somali-American women in the store's parking lot.
"We're gonna kill all of ya. We're gonna kill every one of ya," Hensley was heard saying to the women, in response to a dispute over parking.
The video went viral, became an international story, and Hensley lost her job.
The women reconciled days later on invitation from Fargo Police Chief Dave Todd, who posted a photo of Hensley and sisters Sarah and Leyla Hassan smiling with their arms around one another.