Public Safety

Chris Bagley family in 'agony' no one yet named in his killing

Linn County Attorney continues reviewing sheriff's investigation

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Background

Chris Bagley, 31, a husband and father of two, left his Walker home about 9 p.m. Dec. 13, 2018, with a woman his wife didn’t know.

He left behind his wallet and truck but told his wife, Courtney Bagley, that he would be back shortly. She reported him missing four days later. He never returned.

A friend of Bagley’s later told authorities that early Dec. 14 she drove Bagley to the mobile home of Paul Hoff at 7100 Mount Vernon Rd. SE in Cedar Rapids, according to court documents. The woman, not charged in this case, said she last saw Bagley about 4:45 a.m. She left but he stayed at the trailer.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office had images from the Otter Creek Country Store, 3445 County Home Rd. in Robins, that showed Bagley was in the store at 2:22 a.m. Dec. 14, according to a search warrant affidavit.

But the mobile home was the last place Bagley was seen alive.

The woman told investigators Bagley and another man had been involved in robbing people in the past, according to court documents. One robbery victim may have been Bagley’s marijuana dealer, and she believed the dealer paid someone to harm Bagley because of their history.

At some point, the woman sent a text message to one of Bagley’s family members, saying she didn’t believe he was still alive and thought he had been set up, according to the affidavit.

Logan Gerber, 29, of Marion, during an interview with investigators, said he talked to Bagley at 3:32 a.m. the same day, the document shows. Bagley told Gerber he was on his way to Hoff’s and told him to be ready because he would need his help for the “grande finale.”

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Gerber said he didn’t know what that meant, but thought Bagley was planning to rob someone, according to the warrant. He also said he thought Bagley was set up, which led to his death.

Hoff, 40, who lived in the trailer, was the last person to see Bagley alive, according to the warrant. He said Bagley and the woman talked about “hitting” a drug house and “getting a good score.” Hoff said Bagley left his trailer between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Dec. 14. Later, authorities found out Hoff wasn’t being honest about what happened to Bagley that day.

During the investigation, authorities learned that Bagley was a “known drug user” of marijuana and methamphetamine, according to that affidavit. He also may have been selling marijuana and “was known to carry a gun.”

Authorities also learned of alleged threats made against Bagley and believed in February that he was dead and “possibly murdered.”

On March 1, 76 days after Bagley went missing, authorities found his body buried in a yard behind a home at 4069 Soutter Ave. SE. The ground was frozen and excavation equipment had to be used.

Bagley’s father, Stewart Bagley, confirmed to The Gazette and other news outlets that the body was his son.

Bagley died from “sharp-force injuries,” indicating he was stabbed by a knife or other sharp object, according to a state medical examiner’s report released March 5.

What’s happened since

Several individuals with links to Bagley were arrested and charged in state and federal court in the months after his body was found, but none have been charged with his death. The seven charged or indicted have been convicted or face charges involving drugs and firearms.

Why and how Bagley may have been killed came out April 1 during a detention hearing in federal court for Andrew Shaw, who authorities say is a large-scale marijuana trafficker and who was charged with firearms violations.

FBI Special Agent Michael Kitsmiller testified Bagley was killed Dec. 14 at Hoff’s trailer when Drew Blahnik, 32 — charged with firearms and drugs counts — and Drew Wagner confronted Bagley about his drug robberies against Shaw.

Kitsmiller said Shaw reported that Bagley and Hoff broke into his business Oct. 27 and stole an assault rifle, THC cartridges and a laptop, and then beat up Shaw.

Shaw later sent Bagley a text message, retrieved by Bagley’s wife and given to authorities after he went missing, that said “People go missing every day” and warned Bagley not to threaten him.

All the men were involved in selling drugs; Shaw was their supplier, according to testimony.

Kitsmiller said Shaw denied putting a “hit” on Bagley, as witnesses had told authorities, but admitted he told others he wanted Bagley beaten for robbing his shop and other drug thefts.

The confrontation at the trailer turned physical, and Wagner and Bagley started fighting, Kitsmiller said. At some point, Wagner pinned Bagley against the wall and Blahnik stabbed Bagley, he testified.

Both Blahnik and Wagner thought Bagley had a gun, they told authorities.

Blahnik and Wagner told authorities they loaded up Bagley in a vehicle and took him to Wagner’s home at 4069 Soutter Ave. SE, where they buried him in the yard.

In May, Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner said the investigation was complete and was given to Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden for review.

Vander Sanden, at that time, said it was going to take some time to go through the investigative files because it’s not only reports and evidence from the sheriff’s office but also from the federal court cases.

On Tuesday, Vander Sanden said the investigation and review is active and continuing.

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“Unfortunately I am unable to give a definitive timetable concerning when a final decision will be made,” he said.

Stewart Bagley said the waiting has been “agony for my family.” He took a leave of absence from his job in July because of the stress and anxiety of the situation.

“We’re all seeing counselors and getting treatment over this,” Stewart said recently during a phone interview. “My wife is having migraines. My oldest son and our daughter are also having issues. We’re just stuck … Can’t move forward.”

Stewart said it has been difficult seeing the men that authorities said killed his son being charged with only drugs and firearms counts. Those hearings were difficult for the family.

The case, to him, seems simple. An agent testified Wagner and Blahnik caused his death, he said.

Stewart said the family just wants charges filed for his son’s death. The hardest part of all this is the victim’s family is left in the dark, he said.

“We just want to know what’s going on. We’re just looking for a little hope.”

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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