WATERLOO — Sometimes when little Gracie Buss had bruises or other marks from being beaten, her mother would apply makeup to cover up the injuries, according to her older brother.
The man behind those beatings, according to the brother, was Chad Allen Little, who is now charged with murder and child endangerment in the 4-year-old girl’s death.
The brother, now a teen, took the stand Monday as the state’s case against Little — the 35-year-old boyfriend of Gracie’s mother, Kristi Buss — resumed in Black Hawk County District Court.
Medics were called to the child’s Downing Court apartment May 30, 2015, after she was found unresponsive following what was said to be a seizure and a fall down the stairs. She died days later in a hospital of blunt head trauma.
The brother, who said Little also struck him and once threatened to kill him, recounted how Gracie would cry when she was hit.
“I would try to stop Chad from hitting her,” the brother said. He said he sometimes gave her an ice pack, and she found relief when she put it on her face.
Sometimes Kristi Buss would apply makeup to Gracie’s face, he said.
“Why would your mom put makeup on her?” Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams asked.
“To cover the bruises on her face,” the brother said.
“How did she get those bruises on her face?” Williams asked.
“Chad beating her,” the brother said. “Hitting her, pushing her.”
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Prior to the May 2015 incident, Chad had said Gracie had fallen down stairs, the brother said, be he said he didn’t see it happen.
Gracie’s bedroom had been moved from upstairs to a downstairs room at one point because of ghosts, according to the brother. He said Little told him “the ghosts beat her when she was sleeping.”
The boy said his mother never hit the children.
On the morning of May 30, 2015, the boy said Little woke him screaming that Gracie had a seizure. He said Little told the mother to call 911. He saw Gracie on the floor, her eyes rolled back into her head and her teeth locked together.
The brother said he and Little left, hopping a fence behind the townhouse and going to a nearby mobile home park. The ambulance arrived for his sister as they watched from a fence line, he said. He said he wanted to be with his sister.
Investigators found what a veil of makeup couldn’t cover up when they searched the apartment. Jurors heard about blood police found in different areas around the townhouse.
Crime Scene Investigation Officer Jody Stratton said police discovered blood on a toddler-sized mattress that was propped up in the kitchen. A bloody yellow pillow with butterflies was discovered in a laundry room. There was also a comforter with blood and a few towels with blood smears, Stratton said.
Investigators also discovered blood on the carpet in Gracie’s room, and one spot had blood soaked through into the padding underneath, the officer said.
Among the belongings that caught the attention of police was an undated handwritten note, apparently from Little, apologizing to Kristi Buss.
It read: “Hey you, I’m very sorry for snapping on Grace. I lost my temper know (sic) joke. I leave the room for 10 seconds to shower and come out to her playing ... I won’t do that again. I’m a leave just for a bit clear my mind. Love Chad Little.”
Police also found at least two holes in the drywall around the apartment, the officer said.