Patrick Springer, Published September 10 2013
Father of slain Spirit Lake children: 'I'm not a monster'
The interview segment was shown to jurors Tuesday as the trial of Valentino “Tino” Bagola continued in U.S. District Court.
Bagola is charged with murdering Destiny Shaw, 9, and her 6-year-old brother, Travis DuBois Jr., in May 2011, when their bodies were found in St. Michael.
Early in the investigation, the children’s father, Travis DuBois Sr., was considered the prime suspect, and was accused by his estranged common-law wife, Mena Shaw, the children’s mother.
Two FBI agents interviewed DuBois on May 23, 2011, in the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center in Devils Lake. The children’s bodies had been found two days earlier.
The interview began in a relaxed manner, with banter about DuBois’ work as a firefighter and his Army experiences, as well as domestic discord and sometimes violence with Shaw.
But the interrogation abruptly became accusatory when the agents confronted DuBois, saying it was “obvious” he was the murderer, and suggesting the motive was his anger at Shaw, who recently had moved out of their home.
“You’re so mad at Mena that you make a mistake and take it out on the wrong person,” said Aaron Kellerman, an FBI agent based in Grand Forks.
Later Kellerman added, in a phrase repeated often, “You’re not a monster.” It was a term DuBois himself would repeat, saying, “I’m not a monster.”
Continuing that suggestive line of questioning, Kellerman noted DuBois had been in the house before Shaw discovered the bodies, but had done nothing to “cover up” the crimes.
A few moments later, fellow FBI agent Brian Cima asked DuBois, “So what happened?”
“I don’t know,” DuBois said.
Later in the interview, as the agents repeatedly accused DuBois and pleaded with him to tell them what happened, DuBois at times made statements saying he “must have” done something, such as placing a TV on Destiny’s head, since that’s how she had been found.
But DuBois repeatedly said he could not remember what happened, and said he had been drinking and struggling to recall.
“What am I supposed to tell you guys if I don’t remember?” DuBois said, adding a moment later, “My God,” then trailing off into silence.
Both children were repeatedly stabbed, and died from their wounds, according to the pathologist who performed the autopsies. FBI agents recovered two knives smeared with what appeared to be blood.
The agents asked DuBois what he did with the knives, and he answered that he couldn’t remember.
DuBois said he was stunned when Shaw discovered the bodies. According to testimony, he had remained in the home for much of the previous two days or more, drinking beer. “I was in shock and everything,” he said.
As the agents continued to pepper DuBois with questions, pleading for details, he said at one point: “I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m not.”
He would alternate between puzzlement and seeming to grope for an explanation for the presence of two dead children in the house he had been occupying.
“I was drinking,” DuBois said, when agents told him he had to face up to what he had done. “That’s the only thing I can come up with.”
In earlier prosecution testimony Tuesday, a half-sister of the two children said DuBois was acting “weird” hours before the bodies were found.
Angelica Chavales, 15, said DuBois was in the home with several others and had been drinking. She entered the home four times that Saturday, as she and another sister were searching around St. Michael for the two children.
The first time, mid-morning, nobody was home, Chavales said. She returned about an hour later, around 11 a.m., and Bagola, who was staying at a house across the street, entered the DuBois house about the same time.
“I asked him if he saw Destiny and Baby Travis,” Chavales said. “He said ‘no.’ ”
Bagola, who is Mena Shaw’s nephew and earlier had lived in the DuBois home, emerged as the suspect more than a year later, when an FBI lab found his DNA beneath Destiny’s fingernails.
During a third visit to the DuBois home on Saturday, in the afternoon, several other people were with DuBois, who appeared drunk, said Chavales, who is Shaw’s daughter.
DuBois stared at Chavales when she was near the bedroom where the two children later were found, and acted nervous, she said. To demonstrate, Chavales wrung her hands.
A few hours later, after Shaw discovered the bodies, Chavales heard her mother accuse DuBois of being responsible for the deaths, and saw him leave the home.
Her sister, Tamara Feather, also testified about the day Destiny and Travis Jr., were found and the last day they were seen alive, the night of May 18.
That afternoon and evening, Feather, Chavales and other siblings, including Destiny and Travis Jr., went to a wildlife park, where the children played.
Travis DuBois Sr. had been drinking that day, Feather said, and asked her earlier in the day for a ride into Devils Lake so he could buy more beer. She declined.
Later, when it was getting dark and it was time to take the children home, Feather said Destiny asked her to take her home so she would not have to stay in the house with DuBois.
“I told her that she couldn’t,” Feather said, explaining to her younger sister that there was no room. She dabbed tears from her eyes. It was the last time she would see Destiny and Travis Jr. alive.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522