116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man now serving 14 years in federal prison for firearms and drugs violations testified Tuesday that a man he had just met — Drew Blahnik — came to his mobile home Dec. 14, 2018, and stabbed Chris Bagley to death.
Paul Hoff, 42, testifying in Blahnik’s first-degree murder trial that started last week, said Bagley sank to the floor after the first stab to his left side — “like it let the air out of him.” Blahnik continued to stab Bagley several more times on his upper body and neck, Hoff told jurors, using a “survival-type knife with a 10-inch blade.”
Blahnik, also charged with obstruction of prosecution and abuse of a corpse, has pleaded not guilty and is claiming self-defense or defense of another, his lawyer said Friday.
Hoff said Tuesday that Drew Wagner, who has been convicted in this case, got into a shoving match in the trailer with Bagley over Bagley robbing their mutual drug dealer, Andrew Shaw.
“Wagner told me he was going to (expletive) him up — beat him up,” Hoff said. “I didn’t know it was … I thought it would be a little fight and then it would be over.”
Wagner testified Monday that Blahnik repeatedly stabbed Bagley at Hoff’s trailer, but his account varied in some key respects from Hoff’s. Wagner had said he didn’t want to help Blahnik in the killing and had suggested afterward they call 911 but was threatened.
Hoff said Bagley and others had come over to his trailer in the early morning of Dec. 14, 2018, which he said wasn’t unusual. The trailer wasn’t his primary home — it was a drug house.
Bagley arrived with Lydia Oline, who testified last Friday, and they wanted to pull a robbery at a house Oline knew about. Hoff said he was willing initially, but after hearing more information decided against it.
They all smoked marijuana and methamphetamine for a while and then Oline and Bagley left. But Bagley later returned. Hoff said Wagner called him about 4 a.m. and asked if Bagley was there. When Hoff confirmed, Wagner said he was coming over.
When he arrived, Blahnik — who Hoff said he had not met before that night — was with him. Wagner asked to talk to Hoff in the back bedroom, leaving Blahnik and Bagley alone at a bar area in the front of the trailer. Wagner told Hoff the two planned to beat up Bagley.
Hoff said they went back to the front area and Wagner started telling Bagley he was “messing up” their drug business. Bagley said he’d do what he wanted to do. So Wagner confronted him and they started shoving each other. Wagner grabbed Bagley from behind in a “bear hug.” Blahnik got up from stool and pulled the knife from behind his back and started stabbing Bagley, Hoff testified.
“Bagley says, ‘Let me get out of here,”’ Hoff recalled for the jury. “Then Wagner says, ‘It’s too late for that. Let’s kill this (expletive).’”
Blahnik mistakenly stabbed Wagner’s hand during the struggle and Blahnik told Wagner to let go of Bagley, Hoff said. That’s when Bagley sank to the floor and Blahnik continued stabbing him. The entire incident took seconds.
Hoff said he pulled out his gun because he didn’t know what Blahnik — who still held the knife — was going to do next. Wagner told Hoff to “chill out, and this was self-defense.”
Assistant Linn County Attorney Monica Slaughter asked Hoff if the knife came from his bar counter, as Wagner had testified, and asked what Blahnik did with it afterward.
Hoff said the knife came from Blahnik, not his bar, and Bagley just wiped off the blade on his pants and put it back on his waistband.
Slaughter asked if he checked on Bagley. Hoff said he didn’t because he knew Bagley was dead.
He got a blue tarp from the trailer, as he still held his gun, and he and Wagner rolled the body onto it and wrapped it up. Wagner went out and pulled his truck around to the back of the trailer and Blahnik and Hoff took the body to the back bedroom and hoisted it through the window to Wagner outside. They all loaded the body into the truck bed and Hoff took a piece of plywood and covered it up.
Hoff said Bagley didn’t have a gun that night, and nobody had yelled “gun” or a gun didn’t fall to the floor during the struggle — as Wagner had testified a day earlier. The only gun present was Hoff’s, he said.
Wagner and Blahnik left after the killing, and Hoff was left to clean up his trailer. He said blood was everywhere — on flooring, cabinets and walls. He sent a text message to Wagner about 8 or 9 a.m. and Wagner came back. Hoff told Wagner the flooring would need to be replaced, and Wagner assured him that Shaw would pay for it.
Wagner, in his testimony, said Blahnik told him Shaw wanted him to kill Bagley because Bagley had committed burglaries and robberies against him.
After Bagley’s death, Hoff said Blahnik contacted him about two weeks later. Blahnik asked for him to meet for a meth buy at a bar. When Hoff arrived, he said, Blahnik and another man came over to his truck and Blahnik said they had to kill Wagner because he’s the “weakest link.”
Blahnik said Wagner would sell them out because he was feeling sick and upset after burying Bagley. Hoff said this was the first he learned that Bagley was buried.
In 2019, police found Bagley’s body buried in the yard of a Cedar Rapids house where Drew Wagner lived, according to records and testimony.
Hoff will continue his testimony Wednesday. The trial is expected to go into next week.
Follow Trish Mehaffey on Twitter for daily live coverage from the courtroom. Comments: (319) 398-8318; firstname.lastname@example.org