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Forum News Service, Published January 07 2014

Bagola files appeal of murder conviction

FARGO - A man convicted in the killings of his young cousins on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation is appealing the jury’s findings that he murdered them.

A jury convicted Valentino Bagola for the murders of Destiny Shaw, 9, and her 6-year-old brother, Travis DuBois Jr., at the children’s home May 21, 2011, in St. Michael, N.D. Both children were victims of multiple knife wounds.

Bagola’s attorney, Christopher Lancaster of Fargo, filed appeal papers Monday with the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, according to online court records.

The appeal comes after a jury convicted Bagola Sept. 23 for two counts of murder. Bagola was 20 years old at the time of the trial late last summer.

In December, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced Bagola to life in prison for two counts of first-degree murder.

The murders on the Spirit Lake Reservation went unsolved for more than a year, and highlighted the plight of endangered children there.

Bagola’s life sentence was mandatory. “The barbarism of the attacks is unquestionable,” Erickson said at Bagola’s sentencing hearing, adding they displayed “uncontrollable rage” by Bagola that posed a significant threat to public safety.

In the end, Erickson declined to impose back-to-back life sentences, saying they would be symbolic, since it was “almost inconceivable” that Bagola faced a future outside of confinement in prison.

“Once you’re sentenced to die in prison, you die in prison,” Erickson said, adding that a presidential pardon or commutation of the sentence was extremely unlikely.