While stopping to use a pay phone, Mr. Bagley agreed to give a ride to Mr. Vialva and two of his accomplices, the department said. In the car, Mr. Vialva pulled out a gun, forced the Bagleys into the trunk, and drove for several hours, stopping at A.T.M.s to withdraw money from the couple’s bank account and trying to pawn Ms. Bagley’s wedding ring.
While locked in the trunk, the couple spoke with their abductors about God and pleaded for their lives, the Justice Department said. Mr. Vialva eventually parked in a remote area of the Fort Hood military reservation, where an accomplice, Brandon Bernard, 18, doused the car with lighter fluid as the Bagleys sang and prayed, the Justice Department said.
Mr. Vialva shot and killed Mr. Bagley, 26, and then shot Ms. Bagley, 28, in the face, leaving her to die of smoke inhalation after Mr. Bernard set the car on fire, the Justice Department said. Mr. Vialva and Mr. Bernard were both convicted and sentenced to death in 2000, although no date has been set for Mr. Bernard’s execution.
There was no answer at phone numbers listed for relatives of the Bagleys and their former pastor in Iowa, Bill Tvedt, declined to comment.
Ms. Otto said race had played a “very significant role” in the case. She noted that the Bagleys were white and said that prosecutors had emphasized that Mr. Vialva was the leader of a “Black street gang,” which raised the specter of “organized, marauding Black teenagers in their community.”
“It played into the ‘superpredator’ scenario that was so common during that era,” Ms. Otto said. Only one member of the jury of 10 men and two women that convicted Mr. Vialva and Mr. Bernard was Black, she said.
After his conviction, Mr. Vialva converted to Messianic Judaism and preached about redemption to other death-row inmates, Ms. Otto said.