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Chuck Haga, Forum Communications, Published September 04 2012

Trial in killings of Spirit Lake siblings delayed until April

A federal murder trial in the abuse and deaths of two Spirit Lake Nation children last year has been rescheduled from later this month to April.

The trial of Valentino “Tino” James Bagola was set to begin in U.S. District Court in Grand Forks on Sept. 25, but defense and prosecution attorneys agreed to a delay at a hearing in Fargo on Thursday.

“The complexity of a murder case like that dictates a continuance,” Assistant U.S. Attorney and lead prosecutor Chris Myers said Tuesday.

He said Bagola waived his right to a speedy trial at the Thursday hearing.

Bagola, 19, from St. Michael, N.D., faces four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Destiny Jane Shaw, 9, and her brother, Travis Lee DuBois Jr., 6, in May 2011.

A federal indictment unsealed on July 23 alleges that Bagola stabbed the children to death between May 18 and May 21 last year. He also is accused of killing Shaw in the course of committing aggravated sexual abuse and of killing DuBois while committing child abuse.

The children’s mother found their bodies beneath a mattress in their St. Michael home on May 21, 2011.

The maximum penalty for all charges is life in prison.

The deaths of the two young siblings and the passage of 14 months before charges were filed in the case fueled concerns at Spirit Lake that the tribe’s child protection system needed major overhaul.

Some critics of tribal government raised questions about the length and quality of the investigation and the commitment of investigators. But in a statement accompanying news of the indictment, U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said the charges had resulted from “months of careful police work by the FBI and the BIA,” including the examination of much forensic evidence and many interviews by FBI and other law enforcement people.

“The resources and effort brought to bear on this investigation … should leave no doubt as to the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensuring justice for child victims in Indian country,” Purdon said.

Federal authorities arrested Bagola in Grand Forks the weekend of July 21-22. He was initially held at the Grand Forks County Correctional Center but has been transferred to federal custody, where he remains without bond.

Federal authorities have jurisdiction over major crimes in Indian country.

In his initial court appearance, Bagola pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is represented by a federal public defender.