116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man, convicted last month of fatally stabbing Chris Bagley in 2018, will have to wait a little longer to be known as “Johnny Blahnik Church,” which he prefers to further his acting career.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns, during a short hearing Friday, told Blahnik, 34, he likely will grant his name change after Blahnik’s Oct. 12 sentencing in Linn County District Court.
Blahnik said he thought he had “waited long enough” but understood the judge’s position.
Bruns said he wanted to avoid any confusion in Blahnik's conviction and sentencing. It would be a cleaner record if he retains the same name until his case is resolved, the judge said.
Bruns said he wouldn’t require another hearing on the name change.
Blahnik faces up to 54 years in prison for second-degree murder, obstruction of prosecution and abuse of a corpse. A Linn County jury convicted him July 29 in the Dec. 14, 2018, stabbing death of Bagley, 31, of Walker.
Blahnik must serve 70 percent of his 50-year murder sentence before being eligible for parole.
Federal prosecutors also have a detainer on Blahnik on drug charges stemming from the Bagley investigation.
Drew Wagner, sentenced last week for voluntary manslaughter and other charges in Bagley’s death, testified at trial that Blahnik planned to eliminate Bagley for drug dealer Andrew Shaw. Bagley had stolen money and drugs from Shaw more than once and Shaw wanted revenge, he stated.
Wagner and Blahnik found out Bagley was at a trailer owned by Paul Hoff, also charged in Bagley’s death, and went there with a plan to kill Bagley.
Wagner said he started an argument that escalated into a shoving or wrestling match with Bagley. Once Wagner had control of Bagley with his arms around him — pinning Bagley’s arms — Bagley started stabbing him.
Hoff, now serving 14 years in federal prison for firearms and drugs, testified Blahnik took a knife from behind his back and, in a punching motion, started stabbing Bagley and screaming like a “maniac.”
A medical examiner said Bagley was stabbed 13 times in the neck and torso. Most of the wounds — to the stomach, spinal column, spleen and abdomen — could have been fatal, she said.
Blahnik claimed self-defense or in defense of others at trial. He didn’t testify, and his lawyer didn’t call any witnesses following six days of testimony from the prosecution.
Blahnik, in his grand jury testimony played at trial, said Bagley had a gun during the fight. Wagner also said a gun fell to the floor during the struggle, but he admitted that it was never a threat to him or Blahnik.
Hoff testified there was no gun. He also said all three of them helped wrap the body in a plastic tarp and bedsheet and loaded it into Wagner’s truck.
Bagley’s body was found buried under a pile of lumber and a canoe by Wagner’s garage in southeast Cedar Rapids Feb. 28, 2019. Law enforcement had to warm the frozen ground before they could dig through snow and ice to recover the body.
Shaw hasn’t been charged in this case. He was sentenced to eight years for drugs and firearms violations, which stemmed from the Bagley case. He remains in federal prison.
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