116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Drew Blahnik admits in the last hour of his five-hour police interview that he stabbed Chris Bagley multiple times Dec. 14, 2018, but insisted it was in self-defense because Bagley reached for his gun.
The final portion of the videotaped and audiotaped interview with Blahnik was played Thursday for jurors hearing Blahnik’s first-degree murder trial in Linn County District Court.
In the recordings, Blahnik, 34, of Cedar Rapids, said Bagley got into a “wrestling match” with Drew Wagner and Paul Hoff, also charged in Bagley’s death, after Bagley and Wagner “got into something” at Hoff’s trailer.
When Bagley reached for his gun, Blahnik said he grabbed a knife and started stabbing Bagley in the side.
Blahnik didn’t admit to being involved in moving Bagley’s body. In fact, he said, he had wanted to call police, but Hoff said, “No, no, no, no, I got this.”
Blahnik said Hoff was worried about the methamphetamine in his trailer.
“I liked Chris,” Blahnik told Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Trent Vileta, while Vileta let Blahnik smoke cigarettes in the garage of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. “He helped me move into his old place.”
It’s not clear why Blahnik started talking to Vileta, who had tried for about four hours to get Blahnik to talk. Vileta repeatedly told him Wagner and Hoff had already told him what had happened and that Blahnik had killed Bagley.
“Those two (Wagner and Hoff) are singing a duet like Lady Gaga at the Oscars,” Vileta told him earlier in an interview room before they went to the garage.
Blahnik said Wagner gave Bagley a chance to get out of the confrontation, but Bagley pushed him and they were wrestling and Bagley reached for a gun. Wagner yelled “gun,” and that’s when he protected Wagner and stabbed Bagley.
“That’s self-defense, that’s self-defense,” Blahnik told the investigator. “But then Paul was just like ‘No, just get him out of here. Get him out of here.’ And that’s when he was loaded into someone’s truck.”
Blahnik said Wagner and Hoff took Bagley’s body out through the window and loaded him into Wagner’s truck. He doesn’t know where they took the body.
“We should have just called the cops right then and there,” Blahnik said.
Blahnik said they wrapped the body in a plastic tarp — one used for painting. He didn’t know what happened to the knife. Hoff was going to “take care of it.” The knife — which Blahnik said he took off the trailer’s bar counter — wasn’t found in Hoff’s home or vehicle.
After Bagley’s death, Blahnik said he went back to Wagner’s and “was freaking out, pacing around the basement.” Blahnik knew it was too late to call the police. Hoff continued to reassure everyone “everything’s gonna be fine.”
Blahnik said Hoff was part of the struggle with Bagley and reached for his gun when Bagley went for his, but Bagley went for his gun before they went down on the ground.
He didn’t know how many times he had stabbed Bagley or where, besides his side.
Vileta asked Blahnik if anyone had threatened him afterward to keep his mouth shut. Blahnik said Wagner acted like Hoff “was going to kill me or something.”
Blahnik did not give Vileta the location of where Bagley’s body was buried.
Recovery of body
After the video interview was played, Linn County Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Beuter identified photos of Bagley’s body being recovered from Wagner’s yard on Souter Avenue SE on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2019.
The photos were graphic of the 31-year-old’s body, which was found buried close to the garage on the property. Authorities used a county skid loader and a ground warmer from a funeral home to dig through ice and snow and unearth Bagley’s body from a shallow grave.
Some of Bagley’s family members remained in the courtroom during the photos and testimony, tearing up.
In other testimony, Dr. Kelly Kruse, an associate state medical examiner, said she and two associates from the office assisted in the excavation of Bagley’s body.
The body, she said, was frozen and well-preserved and identified by his driver’s license, dental records and tattoos. She said the tears or rips in his clothing correlated to the multiple stab wounds.
The photos showed stab wounds to Bagley’s neck, shoulder and sides. Two of the wounds impacted his spinal column and respiratory system.
The wound to Bagley’s spinal column could have been the fatal wound. In fact, Kruse said, most of the wounds, to the stomach, spleen and abdomen, could been the fatal.
She ruled the cause of death was multiple stab wounds.
Kruse said she compared the knives that law enforcement sent her, ones that belonged to Blahnik, to Bagley’s wounds, but it’s “nearly impossible to say what knife caused his injuries.”
Bagley had no injuries to his hands, which indicate defensive wounds, Kruse said.
A toxicology report showed Bagley had nicotine, methamphetamine and its byproduct, amphetamine, and caffeine in his system when he died. None of those were contributing factors to his death, Kruse said.
On cross-examination, Kruse said Bagley’s level of methamphetamine was high, and that some fatal overdoses occur at that level. She added people who regularly use drugs can build up a tolerance to them.
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