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Patrick Springer, Published September 05 2013

Suspect told FBI slaying of two Spirit Lake children prompted by anger at their dad

FARGO – Two sides of Valentino “Tino” Bagola were on display Thursday as jurors viewed videotaped interviews in which he confessed to killing a brother and sister.

There was the “good Tino” who struggled to remember the details of the stabbings, which happened in May 2011 on the Spirit Lake reservation. He claimed his memory was dimmed because he was drinking and “blacked out.”

And then there was the “bad Tino” who admitted to repeatedly stabbing Destiny Shaw-DuBois, 9, and her 6-year-old brother, Travis DuBois, Jr., in a bedroom of their home in St. Michael, an attack he said was prompted by anger at the children’s father.

Bagola, standing trial on federal murder charges in U.S. District Court, emerged as the suspect in the slayings after his DNA was found beneath the girl’s fingernails – a fact FBI agents confronted him with in two lengthy interviews in July 2012.

Bagola’s admissions, made as he was interrogated while being held on an unrelated theft charge in the Grand Forks County jail, were elicited after the agents’ persistent prodding.

In the course of the interview, Bagola described a conflicting “good side” and “bad side,” a duality Special Agent Michael Smotrys seized upon as a way to pry information from the suspect, repeatedly asking what the “bad Tino” could reveal about the crimes.

Bagola, 20, found it easier to recall details when given pen and paper, adding specifics after the agents asked for greater clarity. He told agents he was angry with the children’s father, Travis DuBois, Sr. The two men had been drinking and watching an NBA basketball game on television the night of May 18, 2011.

Bagola said he left because DuBois became angry with him. He went across the street, to a home where he had been staying, and continued drinking.

Later that night, Bagola returned to the DuBois home, crawling into a basement window and walking upstairs in search of Travis DuBois, Sr., whom he couldn’t find.

Though the father was the target of his anger, Bagola said he took his rage out on Destiny and Travis, who were sleeping atop a mattress on a bedroom floor.

“And I hurted travis Jr. first and then destiny after the other one,” Bagola wrote in his statement to the FBI on July 16, 2012. “Cause all I thought about was travis sr. And so I took it out on him first.

“Then after I done started to hurt destiny knowing she was from travis to,” he wrote.

After the attacks, Bagola realized he should have waited to take his revenge until their father came home. “I felt bad about it because I know from that point on I was in some serious trouble,” he wrote.

Bagola said he stabbed the children with a knife taken from the kitchen. He threw the knife away in a garbage bag outside the home, and then washed his hands in the sink before leaving.

“I see a picture of them laying there,” he wrote. He stabbed the boy repeatedly after “slamming” him to the floor mattress. Then Bagola cut the boy’s throat and left him there “to bleed out.”

Next, Bagola said he started repeatedly stabbing the girl, then covered both children with a large blanket. He washed his hands, and threw the knife away.

Bagola told agents that after he stabbed the girl, he sexually assaulted her.

After the attacks, and disposing of the knife in a trash bag, Bagola once again left the DuBois home and returned to the home across the street. He estimated it was early the morning of May 19.

Through a window, Bagola saw Travis DuBois, Sr., drive home. He watched as DuBois got out of his car with a case and a half of beer and walked back into the house.

Jurors watched the videotaped interviews on a large television monitor in the courtroom. Some took notes.

On the screen, Bagola, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, often sat silent for long periods, seeming to struggle to recall details or brood. At times he bowed his head, or looked down with his head in his hands.

A text transcript appeared at the bottom of the screen, to help jurors make out what the soft-spoken defendant was saying. At times, background noise made it difficult to discern the words.

“I’m sorry for everything I did to those kids,” Bagola wrote, concluding the second of three passages of his sometimes contradictory written statement, which evolved as the agents asked for additional details and clarification.

The admissions about the assaults came in the second of two long interrogations in an interview room at the jail.

In the first interview, which took place late on the night of July 13, 2012, and early the next morning, Bagola acknowledged that after the children were killed, he had scratches and bite marks, which he said he discovered while showering. He said he went to see a medicine man in Canada, troubled that he might have done something wrong that he couldn’t remember.

In the second interview, on July 16, Bagola gradually became more forthcoming. He more readily admitted to repeatedly stabbing the two children than to the sexual assault. He admitted raping the girl only after agent Smotrys asked what had happened to the girl.

“Before she got stabbed, what happened to her?” Smotrys asked at one point, trying to get Bagola to reveal more.

A few moments later, the FBI agent said, “We all know, but you have to say it.” That was when Bagola admitted to raping her.

Bagola said he left the DuBois home with a boy’s shirt and boy’s pants. FBI agents found a brown, bloodstained blouse and a knife, with what appeared to be blood, in the trash bag outside the home.

FBI agents found a larger kitchen knife, with the blade broken off from the handle, in a trash bag inside the DuBois home. Bagola said a knife broke when he hit something hard.

The trial, which began on Thursday with opening statements and is expected to last more than two weeks, continues Friday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522