CHRIS BAGLEY

Man accused of killing Chris Bagley wants to delay trial because prosecution didn't provide crucial evidence to case

Judge will hear arguments Monday

Drew Blahnik listens as his defense attorney, Leon Spies, speaks at a Sept. 16, 2020, hearing at the Linn County Courtho
Drew Blahnik listens as his defense attorney, Leon Spies, speaks at a Sept. 16, 2020, hearing at the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. Blahnik is charged with the first-degree murder in the December 2018 slaying of Chris Bagley, 31, of Walker. Blahnik’s lawyer is asking for a delay in Blahnik’s trial. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The man accused of killing Chris Bagley in 2018 is asking a judge to delay his first-degree murder trial — set for next month — because the prosecution didn’t provide crucial results of DNA testing, which includes a knife sheath from a possible murder weapon.

In a motion filed Friday, Leon Spies, the Iowa City lawyer for Drew Blahnik, 33, said the prosecution needs time to analyze lab reports and likely will need to obtain independent testing of items examined by the state and FBI crime labs.

Bagley’s body was discovered buried behind a house in southeast Cedar Rapids on March 1, 2019.

Spies said the defense received copies of lab reports of knives or knife sheaths seized from Blahnik’s apartment and vehicle on July 9.

However, the DNA report disclosed only the knife sheaths had been tested and a DNA profile developed “indicated mixture of at least two individuals” but it was “too weak for conclusive interpretation,” according to the motion.

The defense asked for all the data connected to any expert testimony used at trial, Spies stated.

On Jan. 7, the prosecution informed the defense for the first time it would be offering evidence submitted to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., which included two knife sheaths found in Blahnik’s vehicle and apartment.

Spies said the defense didn’t have any FBI lab reports. Spies then asked for any explanatory lab reports but was told the FBI only examined the knife sheaths for fingerprints, not blood or DNA, according to the motion.

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On Jan. 11, the prosecution gave Spies six FBI lab reports, including ones from April 2019 regarding serological and DNA examination of upholstery and flooring removed from a Chevrolet Silverado; an analysis from November 2019 of clothing taken from Blahnik’s apartment, along with knives and sheaths seized from his apartment and vehicle; and a December 2019 report of prints taken from the same knives.

The next day, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said prosecutors didn’t have the newly disclosed FBI reports until now. An investigator with the Linn County Sheriff’s Office had contacted the FBI in an effort to obtain all the lab reports and data, the prosecution told Spies.

On Jan. 14, Spies received nearly 1,000 pages of FBI reports, scientific data and other documents related to FBI lab testing, according to the motion.

Spies reviewed the new materials last weekend and determined additional FBI and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation lab reports were missing, as well as testing data from the state lab regarding the knife sheaths.

Spies said he received the additional state lab reports on Wednesday but still hasn’t been provided with the missing FBI lab reports or the data and testing materials from the state lab exam of the knife sheaths conducted last June.

The defense won’t have time, he said, to evaluate the reliability of the testing and the expert testimony expected to be offered by the prosecution, according to the motion.

These are “complex scientific issues,” and the defense likely will need to obtain independent testing of items examined by the state and FBI labs, Spies said.

If Blahnik’s trial proceeds Feb. 16, Blahnik’s rights will be “critically impaired,” Spies said in the motion.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns set a phone hearing for Monday to hear arguments.

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Blahnik also is charged with abuse of a corpse and obstruction of prosecution in Bagley’s death.

Drew Wagner, 35, pleaded in June to amended charges of voluntary manslaughter, assault while participating in a felony, conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, abuse of a corpse and obstruction of prosecution in Bagley’s death.

During his plea hearing, he admitted to starting a fight with Bagley for robbing their drug dealer, Andrew Shaw, who has been convicted in federal court. Wagner said he held Bagley down while Blahnik repeatedly stabbed him.

Wagner also said he and Blahnik buried Bagley, 31, who went missing Dec. 14, 2018, in the yard of a southeast home where Wagner was living at the time.

Wagner faces up to 37 years in prison. He likely will be sentenced after testifying against Blahnik.

Paul Hoff, 41, of Cedar Rapids, already sentenced to 14 years for firearms and drugs in federal court, also is charged in Bagley’s death with abuse of a corpse and obstruction of prosecution. He is being tried separately.

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

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