Two sides focus on confessions in Spirit Lake child killingsFARGO, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys in the case of a North Dakota man on trial for killing two children on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation offered separate confessions as evidence Wednesday and disagreed over the significance of a palm print and DNA sample.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Attorneys in the case of a North Dakota man on trial for killing two children on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation offered separate confessions as evidence Wednesday and disagreed over the significance of a palm print and DNA sample.
Valentino "Tino" Bagola, 20, is charged with murder for the 2011 slayings of 9-year-old Destiny Shaw-DuBois and her 6-year-old brother, Travis DuBois Jr., in St. Michael. Authorities say Bagola killed the children after sexually assaulting the girl.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers told jurors in opening statements that Bagola confessed and investigators found his DNA under the fingernails of the girl and a bloody palm print in the residence where the children lived with their father, Travis DuBois Sr.
"This defendant," Myers said, pointing at Bagola, who sat motionless through most of the introductory speeches by lawyers, "took this large knife and started stabbing these kids over and over."
Defense attorney Christopher Lancaster countered by pointing out an alleged confession by the elder DuBois several days after the killings and said Bagola's statement was coerced by the FBI. Lancaster said DuBois was home drinking around the time of the killings and the discovery of the bodies days later and left only for numerous beer runs.
"He was an out of control drunk," Lancaster said.
Myers said it was logical for investigators to consider DuBois Sr. a suspect, but any incriminating evidence came only when he repeated suggestions by investigators. DuBois offered no details of the killings and there was nothing to corroborate his story, the prosecutor said.
DuBois later pleaded guilty to public intoxication and reckless endangerment. He was never charged in the children's deaths. Bagola was arrested in July 2012, 14 months after the bodies were found.
Lancaster said Bagola's DNA under the girl's fingernails was not substantial and did not show self-defense, and Bagola's palm print in the residence was not unusual because he lived there for six weeks and often babysat the children, who were his cousins.
DuBois Sr., Lancaster said, killed the children because he was angry they were jumping on the bed and talked backed to him when he told them to stop. Bagola had no reason to commit the crimes and prosecutors added sexual assault as a motive late in the investigation, the defense attorney said.
The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, comes as the tribe is trying to overhaul its child protection system, which came under fire last year with reports of children being abused. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs stepped in last October to bolster and oversee the system.