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Man sentenced for molestation

BY Brian Powers - bpowers@chronicle-tribune.com

Marion resident Brian Bruce, 32, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for molesting and abusing the then-three-year-old son of his former girlfriend.

Bruce admitted to police he was responsible for the injuries inflicted on a three-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy in March 2016. Bruce entered an open plea of guilty – which meant he was to receive no plea deal – in the abuse of the boy as he watched over him.

The boy’s mother, Verlista Luckey, was sentenced to eight years in prison, with four suspended in a plea deal last year. She had been charged with a level 3 felony of neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily harm.

Superior Court I Judge Jeffrey Todd heard from multiple witnesses before making a ruling.

Michelle Coffey, the boy’s grandmother and guardian, took to the stand in order to confront her grandson’s attacker.

“The nature of the abuse is so bad that I cannot mention it,” Coffey said. “Brian Bruce has given my grandson a life sentence of bad memories.”

Coffey said the boy has residual emotional responses to the incident – especially when it comes to males he does not know. 

Marion Police Detective of the Crimes Against People unit, Benjamin Caudell, stated Bruce not only admitted to the sexual and physical abuse of the child, but also sent text messages to Luckey about the incident. He even included photographs in the text message conversation.

Caudell testified the boy’s injuries included a total of 56 soft tissue injuries, three fractures and three traumatic brain injuries – including a subdural hematoma.

“He described being angry with the boy and admitted both physically and sexually abusing him,” Caudell said. “He said he just snapped.”

Theresa Bruce, the defendant’s mother, took the stand for her son. She explained accidents throughout her son’s life may have caused brain injuries, but said he could never afford to get proper testing.

“It is my belief that there is something underlying that may have caused what happened with the boy,” Theresa Bruce said.

His mother added how her son has five children of his own and always did his best for them, even if he couldn’t always provide financially.

Prior to closing arguments, Brian Bruce read a prepared letter addressing the family of the young victim.

“I’m sure it means little now, but I am truly sorry for everything I’ve done,” he said. “I cannot undo everything I’ve done, though I wish I could.”

Prosecutor Jim Luttrull detailed Bruce’s history of violent convictions, as well as describing the intentional repetition of Bruce’s crimes.

“The sharp, clear descriptions show that these things did not just happen; they were inflicted,” Luttrull said. “This was as alarming as it was disgusting.”

Before rendering his sentence, Judge Jeffrey Todd had words of his own for the defendant, beginning by listing the different manners of attempted rehabilitation the judicial system has given Bruce.

“In the court’s eyes, all prior attempts at rehabilitation have been ineffective,” Todd said. “I don’t find it an undue hardship that five children be without a father who is abusive to children.”

Todd then ordered Bruce to a total of 45 years in prison, with a minimum of 38 years to be served before parole eligibility.

The charge of child molestation, which is a Level 1 felony, was ordered to be 39 years on its own, which Todd mandated be served at 85 percent of the time before he is eligible for parole.

Bruce and his attorney, public defender Bridget Foust, immediately filed for a sentence appeal.