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Patrick Springer, Published September 09 2013

Mother of slain Spirit Lake children testifies she accused father of their deaths

FARGO – The mother of Destiny Shaw and Travis DuBois Jr. accused the children’s father of killing them when she found their bodies beneath a blanket in a bedroom of their home.

Mena Shaw, in tearful testimony, described her frantic search for the children when they were discovered missing on May 21, 2011. She initially suspected their father, Travis DuBois Sr., of being responsible for their deaths.

“What the hell did you do to my babies?” she testified Monday in U.S. District Court, recalling her reaction to the discovery. “You killed my babies.”

DuBois, who was standing in the bedroom's doorway, replied, “I didn’t do that,” then left, Shaw said.

The 9-year-old girl and 6-year-old boy were last seen alive the evening of May 18, according to prosecutors.

The couple were having difficulties and separated. Shaw left their four children with DuBois at their home in St. Michael, and she moved into her father's home in nearby Fort Totten.

Shaw had been working at the casino on the Spirit Lake reservation that day, a Saturday. DuBois had called her, asking if she had the children, whom she had left with him. Shaw began her search after getting off work at 4 p.m., joined by two older daughters.

Valentino “Tino” Bagola is charged with murdering the two children and raping the girl. He is Shaw’s nephew, and moved from Sisseton, S.D., into the DuBois home early in 2011 at the request of her sister. He sometimes babysat the children, whom he considered his cousins.

Shaw wept throughout her testimony, frequently dabbing her eyes with a tissue, and often had to be reminded to speak up so jurors could hear.

She said DuBois, who had been home drinking the weekend of the deaths, walked away after she accused him. She said she picked up a bone and swung it at him, missing, as he walked away.

The mother returned to the bedroom, clinging Travis Jr., whom she called “Baby Travis,” until police and other first responders arrived. It was plain both children were dead. The girl was too stiff for her mother to lift, and the boy’s throat had been slit.

Shaw said DuBois drank often, and sometimes became angry and violent. He did not like Bagola, and the two men threatened to fight each other when they were drinking, she said.

In other testimony Monday, a medical examiner said Destiny suffered a paralyzing cut that severed her spinal cord and robbed her of the ability to breathe, likely causing death within minutes.

“This resulted in complete paralysis of the body below the neck,” said Dr. William Massello. “This would be a lethal stab wound.”

Her younger brother, Travis DuBuois Jr., suffered multiple stab wounds to the torso and abdomen, causing internal blood loss that could have killed him within a half hour or so, said Massello, the North Dakota forensic examiner said.

Destiny sustained more than 40 stab wounds and Travis had more than 60 stab wounds, said Massello, who performed the autopsies on both children.

The boy’s wounds included stabs to the forehead, including a triangular wound that partly depressed the skull, which could have been caused by twisting or wiggling a knife blade, Massello said.

The cut on Travis’ neck did not sever any major blood vessels, and was not fatal, he said.

In cross-examination, the defense asked questions highlighting the uncertainty in determining when the children died.

Massello concluded the children likely died either the night of May 18 or early on May 19, but acknowledged he could not specify the day of death.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522