CEDAR RAPIDS — Seven months after authorities found Chris Bagley’s body buried in the frozen ground on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids, they announced Wednesday that a Linn County grand jury has indicted two men in his fatal stabbing Dec. 14.
Drew Blahnik, 32, of Cedar Rapids, already in federal custody on firearms and drug charges, was served an arrest warrant Thursday. And a detainer was placed on Paul Hoff, 40, of Cedar Rapids, also in federal custody on firearms and drugs charges, according to court records.
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden convened a grand jury to determine if charges should be bought in the case. Jurors indicted Blahnik and Hoff after hearing testimony Monday through Wednesday.
Blahnik will be charged Friday with first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse and obstruction of prosecution, an aggravated misdemeanor. If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison without parole.
Hoff, who remains in the Fayette County Jail for now, will be charged with abuse of a corpse and obstruction of prosecution, but he will not appear for an initial hearing Friday. If convicted, he faces seven years in prison.
A criminal complaint explaining the charges against Blahnik will not be available until he is formally charged.
Vander Sanden said he couldn’t “confirm or deny” if others also had been indicted. According to rules on grand juries, an indictment can’t be confirmed publicly until an arrest is made.
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He also wouldn’t explain exactly why it was necessary to present this case to a grand jury, which is rare in Linn County. But he did say there was an “assertion of self-defense,” so he felt it best to have a grand jury look at the evidence.
A grand jury decides if there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, which is a different standard from a jury at trial finding guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The grand jury process also is not open to the public, like a court trial. It involves only the prosecutor, judge, witnesses and the jurors.
Bagley’s father, Stewart Bagley, said Thursday his family is pleased with the charges. He was aware of the grand jury because Courtney Bagley, Chris’ wife, had testified Monday as a character witness.
“We’re happy but sad, you know?” Stewart said. “We still miss a son, father and husband. This doesn’t bring Chris back to us, but it clears a hurdle for the family because we have been stuck in limbo. It has relieved some pressure and we can start to move forward.”
Stewart said the person his son was when he was killed wasn’t representative of his life.
His son’s life started changing about 10 months before his death when he started using methamphetamine. Stewart said he and his wife didn’t realize what was going on until October 2018. Chris “came clean” in November with what was going on and said he “feared for his life.” He promised he would get help after Christmas.
Several individuals connected to Chris Bagley, 31, of Walker, through drug activities have been charged or convicted of drugs and firearms violations in the investigation. But until now, no one had been charged in his death.
Bagley, a husband and father of two, left home Dec. 13, 2018, with a woman his wife didn’t know and didn’t return.
At a federal detention hearing in April for Andrew Shaw, 31, of Cedar Rapids, who authorities say supplied drugs to Bagley, Blahnik and others, details were laid out of why and how Bagley was killed Dec. 14.
Shaw since was convicted in federal court of firearms and marijuana trafficking charges.
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Former FBI Special Agent Michael Kitsmiller, who now is the Marion police chief, said during the hearing that Bagley was stabbed to death during a fight over robberies he had committed against Shaw.
During interviews, Shaw denied putting out a “hit” on Bagley, but admitted to telling others he wanted Bagley assaulted for robbing his business last October and other drug robberies, Kitsmiller said.
Bagley and Hoff broke into Shaw’s business Oct. 27, 2018, and stole an assault rifle and THC cartridges, and then beat up Shaw, Kitsmiller said.
Hoff told authorities Bagley was at his mobile home Dec. 14 — the last day Bagley was seen alive — and Drew Wagner, charged with drugs in state court, and Blahnik said they were coming over after learning Bagley was there, Kitsmiller said.
Wagner confronted Bagley about the robberies and the two started fighting. Blahnik stabbed Bagley, Kitsmiller said.
Kitsmiller said Wagner told investigators he had Bagley pinned up against the wall and Blahnik stabbed Bagley. Wagner also said he was accidentally stabbed during the attack.
Blahnik, during an interview, said he thought Bagley had a gun, Kitsmiller testified. He didn’t see it but Wagner yelled “gun, gun” to warn him. Kitsmiller noted that Hoff said there was no gun.
Wagner and Blahnik buried Bagley in the yard where Wagner was living, 4069 Soutter Ave. SE, Kitsmiller said.
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