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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — In 2019 grand jury testimony, Drew Blahnik touted his military combat training — which included knife fighting — but found it difficult to explain why he had dropped the knife he used to stab an “aggressive” Chris Bagley before he had secured Bagley’s gun.
Linn County prosecutors skeptical of Blahnik’s claim of self-defense asked several times during that grand jury testimony whether his training did not point out the importance of securing an attacker’s weapon before walking away. Instead, Blahnik said he had let Paul Hoff, also charged in this case, pick up the knife and gun.
One week after the first-degree murder trial began in Linn County District Court, prosecutors Friday rested their case against Blahnik, 34. He is accused of stabbing to death Chis Bagley inside Hoff’s trailer in December 2018 in a revenge plot hatched by a drug dealer angry that Bagley had robbed him — and then helping bury Bagley’s body.
In the 2019 grand jury testimony read in court Friday, Blahnik said he was in “shock” after stabbing Bagley to death and guessed he had dropped the knife.
Blahnik told the grand jury that he had gone about 3 a.m. Dec. 14, 2018, to Hoff’s trailer along with Drew Wagner to pick up a circular saw and possibly buy tools — not to kill Bagley on behalf of their drug dealer, Andrew Shaw, as Wagner and Hoff both testified this week in his trial. Wagner has already been convicted in the killing
Blahnik said it was the first time he had gone to Hoff’s trailer and didn’t even know Bagley would be there when he arrived. Blahnik also denied he had gone at Shaw’s request and testified that he knew nothing about Bagley having robbed Shaw. In fact, Blahnik said, he had just met Shaw earlier in 2018 at a bar and didn’t start hanging out with him until after this deadly assault.
When Blahnik and Wagner arrived at the trailer, he said in the grand jury testimony, he sat on a stool by a display case or bar and chatted with Bagley. Hoff and Wagner left the room and when they came back, Wagner began talking to Bagley about some gun he sold him.
Bagley became “aggressive” and pushed Wagner and they started “wrestling,” Blahnik said. He thought it was over payment for the gun, he told grand jurors.
Blahnik said he didn’t have his knife, which he usually carried in a sheath on his waist. He had been working, he said.
He said he saw Bagley reach behind his back and then saw a chrome-plated gun — the same one he knew Bagley had purchased, he said. Wagner yelled “gun, gun.”
“I’m 100 percent sure he had a gun,” Blahnik said to the grand jury
Wagner had his arms wrapped around Bagley and they were struggling when Bagley reached behind his back, Blahnik told the grand jury. Blahnik then grabbed a knife on the display case. There were three fixed-blade knives with long blades on the case, he said.
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden, in the proceeding, asked why — if this were self-defense — he had needed to stab Bagley 13 times.
Blahnik said he didn’t know how many times he stabbed Bagley. He said he has been in combat situations where he shot someone and the person didn’t “go down.” He stabbed Bagley on his side and his neck. But he said he was trained to “take out organs” — and stabbing someone in the throat can incapacitate him.
Vander Sanden ask why he and Wagner could not have subdued Bagley. He and Wagner both outweighed Bagley.
Bagley didn’t go down right away, Blahnik said. He was leaning against the display case for leverage. Bagley fell on his “butt” when Blahnik stabbed him in the neck and remained upright as Blahnik was stabbing his torso and neck two more times, he said.
After the gun fell to the floor, Blahnik dropped the knife and saw Hoff pick up it and also Bagley’s gun.
Blahnik said they needed to call the police because it was self-defense, but Hoff pointed the gun at him and said he had too much meth in his trailer. Hoff took charge, Blahnik testified, and got a plastic sheet and bedspread to wrap up the body. Hoff dragged the body to a rear window and told Wagner to drive his truck around to it.
Blahnik said Hoff was still holding the gun and lifted up the body to the window and Wagner pulled his up to the back window. Blahnik said he didn’t touch the body.
Vander Sanden said he didn’t understand why two people who supposedly had nothing to do with Bagley’s killing did all the work to try to conceal it.
Blahnik said he didn’t know. Hoff would likely face a lot of prison time for meth and guns if police found them at his trailer, Blahnik added.
Blahnik asserted that Hoff continued to threaten him and would park outside his apartment, watching him, and had talked to Wagner about keeping him quiet. Wagner thought Hoff was going to kill him, he said.
He said he had nothing to do with hiding or burying Bagley’s body in Wagner’s yard — where police later found it.
Vander Sanden pointed out that Blahnik had denied being involved or even at the trailer 20 different times throughout his February 2019 interview with an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent.
Blahnik always did “what’s right and stuck up for people,” he swore to the grand jury. Him not reporting this killing went against his morals, he said.
“I’m not a cold-blooded killer,” Blahnik told the grand jury.
The defense will start presenting its case Monday.
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