WATERLOO — The older brother of little Gracie Buss forgives the man accused of killing the 4-year-old girl in 2015.
“You did kill my sister, but somehow I found the courage in my heart to forgive you because it is the right thing to do, even if it hurts me a lot,” the brother, now a teen, wrote in a letter submitted to the court Tuesday as Chad Allen Little was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for first-degree murder in the death of Gracie Buss.
Little, 35, dabbed at tears when he heard the words.
The letter, which prosecutors read aloud, indicated Little also beat the boy and his mother as well as Gracie.
“You have no control over me or power over me anymore. I’ve taken back all the ways you tried to control me. You can’t use me anymore, you can’t scare me anymore and you can’t hurt me anymore. I hate what you put me through,” the brother wrote.
Prosecutors said Little was living with the children’s mother, Kristi Buss, on Downing Court in May 2015 when he called a hospital help line under another person’s name saying Gracie suffered a seizure and fell down stairs. He left the townhouse before paramedics arrived. Gracie died at the hospital days later of what an autopsy determined was blunt trauma to the head. During trial, doctors said her injuries weren’t consistent with a fall down the stairs.
Little on Tuesday apologized to Gracie’s relatives, the girl’s paternal family members in the audience in the courtroom. But he denied any role in the girl’s death.
“I’m sorry for the family. … It didn’t just affect them, it affected the community, it affected my family. And I hope that someday the truth will come out, and the real person will get found, with whatever they deserve. But I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Little said.
He briefly argued for new trial, saying his defense attorneys failed to call more than a dozen witnesses he said would have testified Kristi Buss had been abusive to Gracie, that he wasn’t a violent person and that he wasn’t at the Downing Court townhouse that night.
Other evidence he wanted to present included letters from Kristi Buss he had received following their arrests and letters from the Iowa Department of Human Services.
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“I’m not a violent person,” Little said.
Prosecutor Brian Williams called Little’s request “absolute nonsense” and said most of the evidence Little wanted to include would have been inadmissible.
In turning down the retrial request, Judge Joel Dalrymple said he didn’t doubt the weight of the evidence pointed to Little’s involvement in the girl’s slaying.
He recounted the bruises found on Gracie’s body, especially a significant wound to her head “which I have no doubt, as the judge who sat through this trial, was inflicted by you with the use of a ring that I saw on your hand in two different bits of evidence.”
A police interview video showed Little remove the ring and hide it before talking with investigators hours after Gracie was taken to the hospital.
Kristi Buss is charged with child endangerment causing death and is awaiting trial.
Little’s attorneys asked the court to throw out the conviction and grant a new trial, arguing the judge shouldn’t have allowed jurors to hear testimony about incidents where Little treated Gracie roughly as far back as 10 months before her death.
Prosecutors countered the evidence was needed to back the child endangerment charge, noting Gracie suffered from seizures for which she was never treated, and testimony showed seizures could be the result of physical abuse.