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One of 2 local men convicted of brutal murder of pastor, wife executed

Christopher Andre Vialva, 40, was executed Thursday evening at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre, Haute, Ind.
Christopher Andre Vialva, 40, was executed Thursday evening at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre, Haute, Ind.(CNN)
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:29 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2020 at 10:52 AM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) – Christopher Andre Vialva, 40, one of two Central Texas men who landed on federal death row after they were convicted of the brutal murders of an Iowa pastor and his wife, received a lethal injection Thursday at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre, Haute, Ind.

He was pronounced dead at 5:42 p.m. CDT.

He was the seventh federal death row inmate executed since July the second this week, and the first Black federal inmate to be put to death since the Trump administration resumed federal executions after a nearly 20-year pause.

Vialva and and Brandon Bernard, 39, were sentenced to death in Waco’s federal district court, for the June 20, 1999 murders of Iowa pastor Todd Bagley and his wife Stacey Bagley.

The two were tried in federal court because the murders happened on Fort Hood.

Todd Bagley died of a gunshot, but his wife Stacy, who also had been shot, died of smoke inhalation, which means she was alive in the trunk of the couple’s car when Bernard, in an effort to hide evidence, set the vehicle on fire.

Vialva’s attorney Susan Otto, says race played a role in landing her client on death row.

She said prosecutors portrayed Vialva, who’s Black, as the leader of a street gang, for which, she says there was no evidendce.

She said just one of the 12 jurors selected for Vialva’s trial was Black.

Vialva echoed the claim in a statement recorded on federal death row posted by the ACLU.

Trial testimony showed Vialva, who was 19 at the time, masterminded the couple’s kidnapping during a carjacking and, with several others involved including Bernard, who was 18, spent about six hours driving around Bell County with the young couple locked in the trunk while their abductors took turns trying to use the Bagley’s ATM cards.

Eventually Vialva drove the car to a secluded area of Fort Hood, opened the trunk and after Stacie Bagley told him God loved him, he cursed at her and shot her in the head with a .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol.

But she didn’t die.

Then Vialva shot Todd Bagley, whom he killed instantly, ordered his accomplices to pour lighter fluid in the trunk and on the car and Bernard set it on fire.

An autopsy showed Stacie Bagley had soot in her lungs and her death was attributed to smoke inhalation, not a gunshot wound.

The suspects were detained at the scene after a Nolanville police officer was sent to the area to check out a possible fire.

The killers, while trying to drive away from the scene, ended up stuck in a muddy ditch and still were there when police arrived.

Four were detained initially for questioning in connection with the fire, but were arrested at the scene after firefighters found the badly burned bodies in the car trunk.

The jury returned a guilty verdict and death sentence for Vialva in very short order, but did not reach a verdict on Bernard until the next day.

Vialva was sentenced to death for the carjacking that resulted in death, the murder of Todd Bagley and for the conspiracy to commit murder or attempted murder in the death of Stacie Bagley.

Bernard was sentenced to death for the murder of Stacie Bagley.

His execution date has not been set.

Four younger teenagers pleaded guilty to federal charges connected to the Bagleys' deaths, according to federal prison records.

Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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