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Kyle Potter, Published October 27 2013

Convicted Spirit Lake killer says he wasn’t fit for trial

FARGO – Valentino Bagola, the man convicted last month on two murder counts for the brutal stabbing deaths of two children on the Spirit Lake reservation, says he wasn’t fit to stand trial and should be released from jail.

In documents filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month, Bagola says his court-appointed public defender failed to have competency evaluation conducted and alleges that two Grand Forks doctors confirmed that he was mentally ill. He wrote that he was “grossly abused” as a child, was addicted to drugs and is very depressed.

His attorney, federal public defender Christopher Lancaster, “either knew or should have known he is mentally unfit to stand trial,” Bagola wrote in his request to be released from jail.

Court records from his murder trial in September do not indicate whether Bagola was given a competency evaluation. Federal public defender staff could not be reached.

In September, jurors convicted Bagola, 20, of two felony counts of murder for the deaths of his cousins Destiny Shaw, 9, and Travis Dubois, 6. Their bodies were found May 21, 2011, in a bedroom of their home in St. Michael, N.D. The jury also found him guilty of child abuse and, in the case of Shaw, child sexual abuse.

Bagola is currently in custody at the Cass County Jail, where he is awaiting a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 16. Through jail staff, he turned down a Forum interview request.

Prosecutors in the case weighed conflicting confessions from both Bagola and the victims’ father, Travis DuBois Sr. Bagola eventually emerged as the primary suspect after physical evidence – namely, his DNA under Shaw’s fingernails and a palm print on a bloody computer in the bedroom where the children’s bodies were found – pointed to his culpability.

DuBois Sr. later recanted his confession.

In his court filing, Bagola also accused prosecutors of perjury and said DuBois Sr. “lied numerously as the prosecution orchestrated the false testimony.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502