WATERLOO, Iowa --- Sheriff’s deputies cleared the courtroom Monday when arguments broke out as convicted murder Kevin Deshay Ambrose prepared to be sentenced to life in prison.
Ambrose, 34, of Waterloo, was convicted in February of first-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of attempted murder for shooting his ex-fiance, Marlene Buss, three times, killing her mother, Kay Straw, 59, and trying to shoot the father of Buss’s children, Undray Reed.
Police said Ambrose opened fire May 2 at the home where he had lived with Buss after Buss had taken out a domestic abuse restraining order against him. Straw was shot in front of her 6-year-old grandson as she tried to get him out of the house, according to trial testimony.
During Monday’s hearing, Straw’s relatives told the court how the shooting had traumatized the grandson. The situation began to unravel in the courtroom as Straw’s other daughter, Tammy Barnes, told Ambrose he wasn’t a good father.
“All you are is a monster and a coward,” Tammy Barnes said.
Ambrose interrupted her, apparently making disparaging comments about Straw.
“You know what, I’m talking, so you need to shut up,” Tammy Barnes responded.
After a few other exchanges between the two, members of the two families began arguing in the audience. Ambrose was taken to the ground by deputies and led out of the courtroom. Other deputies began separating family members and physically taking them out of the room.
In the hallway, officers took Ambrose’s brother, Jeremi Montgomery, 31, to the ground, and one deputy pointed a Taser at him but didn’t fire it. He was loaded into an elevator and arrested for disorderly conduct. Montgomery was later released from jail.
When the courthouse calmed down, Ambrose was brought back into the courtroom.
Straw’s son, Randy Barnes, told Ambrose he didn’t believe Ambrose’s account that he blacked out and doesn’t remember the shooting.
“You had a choice to make, and you made the wrong one,” Randy Barnes said.
Tammy Barnes continued her thoughts, telling Ambrose she wished Iowa had the death penalty, so he could die the way her mother had.
“I pray to God you never have a peaceful night of sleep,” she said, adding that she hopes he sees Straw’s face at night.
“In the end, she still won,” Tammy Barnes said.
Buss recounted having to explain to her children that their grandmother is gone forever, and told of the uncertainty she faces with a lead bullet still in her body.
“I live every day not knowing if the bullet in my back will move and I’ll be paralyzed,” she said.
Ambrose gave his condolences to Randy Barnes, but called others liars and drug addicts.
“The story you got ain’t the truth,” Ambrose said.
Prosecutor Linda Fangman asked for consecutive sentences, and noted Ambrose had been scheduled to begin Batterers Education Program classes in connection with an unrelated incident on the day of the shooting.
In the end, Judge Todd Geer sentenced Ambrose to life in prison for murder plus 50 years behind bars for two attempted murder charges.
“These sentences need to be stacked on of top of another because you made three separate conscious decisions to shoot other human beings,” Geer said.
He decided to run a five-year sentence on the firearm charge concurrent.
Earlier: Ambrose: Blackout preceded shootings
8 a.m. - WATERLOO, Iowa --- Facing prison for murder, Kevin Deshay Ambrose said he doesn't have any memory of the May 2 incident that left his ex-fiancee, Marlene Buss, with three gunshot wounds and her mother, Kay Straw, dead.
"I don't remember what occurred. I really don't have a recollection," Ambrose, 34, said Friday at the Black Hawk County Jail, where he has been since the shooting.
He is scheduled to go before a judge today for sentencing on charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
The outcome isn't expected to be a surprise. The murder charge carries a mandatory life prison sentence without parole. A judge could add time for the other charges or run the sentences concurrently.
"I can't even believe this happened," Ambrose said. He said Straw had been good to him and his children from a prior relationship.
He assumes he had a rage-filled blackout, "like something from the (Incredible) Hulk," after Buss took out a domestic abuse restraining order against him, a move he said would have left him and his children without a place to stay.
Ambrose said the last thing he remembers was being removed from his house on Newell Street by sheriff's deputies.
After that, he said, he recalls walking to the home of the mother of his children after spending the night sleeping in bushes.
Ambrose didn't take the stand during his February trial. Witnesses said after authorities left the Newell Street home, he returned, pointed a gun at the head of Undray Reed, the father of his ex-fiance's children, and pulled the trigger.
The gun malfunctioned. Ambrose then chased Buss out of the house, shooting her, prosecutors said.
He then re-entered the house and shot Straw, 59, as she attempted to get her 6-year-old grandson out another door, according to testimony.
At trial, prosecutors said Ambrose had time to plan the attack.
"I really can't believe it's something I'd do," Ambrose said. He said he should have been convicted of the lesser manslaughter charge and is holding out hope for a retrial with a different result, one that would allow him to be a father to his kids again some day.
Ambrose said he was happy with his legal team but said his attorneys should have made more statements to the media leading up to the trial.
He said he doesn't feel he got fair treatment from the all-white jury --- one African-American on the panel turned out to be the alternate and didn't take part in deliberations.
Ambrose also criticized the police for seizing his brother's van as part of the investigation. Authorities said it was the vehicle Ambrose used to initially leave the house, and they found a partial box of ammunition that matched what was used in the shooting.
Ambrose is also keeping track of another shooting in Waterloo. His cousin, Derrick Ambrose Jr., died in November after he was shot by police following a reported disturbance at a nightclub. Authorities said the case is headed to a grand jury to determine if charges are warranted.
"I hope the grand jury will show us justice," he said.