St. Michael man charged in Spirit Lake killing

Grand Forks, North Dakota (AP) August 2012

A St. Michael man has been charged with first-degree murder in the May 2011 killings of two children on the Spirit Lake Reservation, U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said.

Valentino James Bagola, 19, faces a total of four counts in the killings of 9-year-old Destiny Jane Shaw and 6-year-old Travis Lee DuBois Jr. – two charges of unlawful killing and two charges of the unlawful killing while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate the crimes of aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse and child abuse.

The indictment alleges Bagola killed the two children by “striking and stabbing” them “numerous times.”

Bagola at a hearing waived the reading of the indictment and pleaded not guilty. A trial was set for Sept. 24 in Grand Forks.

The federal public defender’s office in North Dakota referred calls to an attorney in the South Dakota office, who did not immediately return a telephone message

A Bureau of Indian Affairs review earlier this year detailed problems in tribal social services programs on the reservation. Thomas Sullivan, regional administrator in Denver for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, last month called for suspending all state and federal funding to the tribe until it put qualified officials in place to run programs to ensure children are not subjected to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Spirit Lake Sioux chairman Roger Yankton has said the tribe is being unfairly singled out for alleged failures to protect endangered children on the North Dakota reservation.

Yankton has cited staff turnover, high caseloads and inadequate federal funding as problems. Tribal leaders who took office a year ago insist they are making strides by, for example, offering new training to social services personnel and increasing collaboration between tribal and county social service providers.

Republican North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven is pushing the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearings about child abuse and neglect on American Indian reservations.