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CEDAR RAPIDS — Now on trial for murder, Drew Blahnik repeatedly denied in a 2019 interview with investigators that he was at a trailer where Chis Bagley was killed in December 2018 or that he had anything to do with the fatal stabbing, according to video shown Wednesday to jurors.
More than once, Blahnik said “I’m innocent” and denied selling or smoking marijuana, even when confronted with evidence of THC cartridges and paraphernalia. The first three hours of a five-hour recorded interview conducted Feb. 25, 2019, were shown in court Wednesday and will continue to be played Thursday.
Blahnik is on trial in Linn County District Court for first-degree murder, obstruction of prosecution and abuse of a corpse. He has pleaded not guilty and plans to claim self-defense or defense of others, his lawyer said last Friday.
Blahnik said little throughout the three hours of video shown in court. Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Trent Vileta tried several ways — gaining his trust, flattering him, having interest in his military service — to get Blahnik to confirm what Paul Hoff and Drew Wagner, also charged in Bagley’s death, had already told investigators: that Blahnik repeatedly stabbed Bagley to death.
“Paul Hoff is a freaking lunatic but he’s been spot on with everything,” Vileta said early on in the recording.
Blahnik remained fairly calm and continued to deny being at Hoff’s trailer or knowing where Bagley was buried. He asked at one point if Bagley was even dead.
Vileta, in the video, told Blahnik that Wagner and Hoff have told authorities everything but that their accounts differ. So he asked Blahnik to straighten out those discrepancies because he knows he is the “smartest” of the three.
“I have no clue where he (Bagley) is,” Blahnik said. He also apologized for not being able to do more.
Trying to get his questions answered, Vileta said he “hates to see” Blahnik be blamed. Blahnik said it was not “cool” that others were trying to pin something on him.
When on the video Blahnik is given a copy of the search warrant on his apartment and shown the box with 100 THC cartridges, he denied knowing that was under his bed and again said he didn’t smoke marijuana. He did, however, admit to using cocaine for two months. Blahnik said he thought the cartridges were Wagner’s.
Wagner, who testified Monday, said Blahnik killed Bagley, with his help, on behalf of their drug dealer, Andrew Shaw. Wagner said Shaw wanted revenge after Bagley robbed him of drugs and money. Wagner testifies that Shaw gave him $10,000 in cash as a well as THC wax and 100 THC cartridges to give to Blahnik as payment for killing Bagley.
Blahnik said on the video that of course he knew about Bagley’s disappearance and had heard the rumors that Bagley’s body was put in a wood chipper — but insisted he was not involved.
He said he hadn’t seen Bagley since the previous summer at a Goodwill in Marion. Blahnik said he gave Bagley a ride at the time because Bagley believed a private investigator was following him and he wouldn’t drive his vehicle.
Blahnik insisted he was “being as honest” as he could be and was a “morally straight” person.
Vileta asked him how Wagner’s hand had become injured, but Blahnik said he didn’t know. He did help re-bandage it, he said, a few days after it had happened. He admitted seeing the post and photo of Wagner’s injury on Facebook.
Wagner and Hoff have each testified that Blahnik accidentally struck Wagner while he was stabbing Bagley.
In other testimony, Linn County Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Beuter, who was the lead investigator in the murder, testified about how the case started and how it led to federal convictions of firearms and drugs violations for Hoff and Shaw. Those charges stemmed from the Bagley investigation but Shaw hasn’t been charged in Bagley’s death and remains in federal prison.
Beuter said he started his investigation when Bagley’s wife, Courtney, reported him missing Dec. 17, 2018, after he had left their Walker home on Dec. 13, 2018 and never returned. They eventually learned Hoff’s trailer was the last place Bagley had been seen alive.
Once Hoff, a felon, was arrested for drugs and firearms found in his vehicle, authorities offered him a deal in exchange for his cooperation, Beuter said. The agreement, basically, gave him Hoff a break in his federal prison time. He faced over 20 years but he was sentenced to 14 years.
Hoff told investigators that Bagley was killed in his trailer. After a search warrant was obtained, numerous areas on the floor and walls appeared to be blood and tested positive for Bagley’s DNA, Beuter said.
Beuter said investigators also searched the homes of Wagner and Blahnik. At Blahnik’s. they found two fixed-blade knifes. One with a sheath was found under a mattress and the other was in console of his vehicle. But neither tested positive for Bagley’s blood. Investigators also found a gun, 100 THC cartridges and other paraphernalia.
Follow Trish Mehaffey on Twitter for daily live coverage from the courtroom. Comments: (319) 398-8318; email@example.com