116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Stephanie Bowling was killed last year during a fight with her boyfriend, and her 5-year-old daughter wonders why her mom can't come down from heaven to play with her.
The girl has been 'traumatized' by her mother's death, her father, Andrew Littrel, said in a victim impact statement read at the Friday's sentencing hearing for Cody Brown, who last month was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a felony, in Bowling's death.
'You don't know how heartbreaking it is to look at your child crying for their mom and to have to tell them that mommy isn't coming back, but she is always going to be with you in spirit,” Littrel said.
He testified his family has been 'struck by tragedy” since Bowling died June 30, 2018.
His daughter has woken up screaming, 'leave my mom alone,” he said during the sentencing hearing held at the Linn County Courthouse.
Brown, 28, was sentenced to up to five years for the death of Bowling, 24, who died from blunt force head injuries two days after an argument with Brown, who she was seeing at the time.
During the argument, Bowling was 'flipped or thrown” and fell on the concrete walkway outside her Cedar Rapids apartment. Testimony at trial revealed he had called her at least 32 times in about a half-hour span before the fatal altercation.
A jury deliberated just two hours before finding Brown guilty, rejecting his assertion that he was acting in self-defense.
In addition to a prison term, Brown was fined $7,500 and ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to the victim's family.
'He destroyed my daughter's life with the actions he took that night,” Littrel said.
Sixth District Chief Judge Patrick Grady sentenced Brown to up to five years in prison - the maximum sentence for the charge.
Tricia Eilers, Bowling's mother, asked for the maximum, saying even five years is not enough.
She said Brown's 'vicious act” has ripped her family apart. 'I've almost been divorced over this,” she said.
'I hope God welcomes him into the heavenly gates someday, because I promise you Stephanie will make his life a living hell,” Eilers said.
Tara Tuetken, Bowling's aunt and Eiler's sister, said Bowling was an important person in her life. 'Her laugh and her beauty was contagious,” Tuetken said.
Tuetken said Bowling had dreams that she was fully achieving.
Sharon Eilers, Bowling's step-grandmother, said that Bowling's death has made the family stronger in many ways. But it also brought tension, sadness and questions of what anyone can do to make it better.
'This verdict brings some closure to the family, but we are never going to be the same, not ever,” Sharon Eilers said.
After hearing the victim statements, Brown, wearing a gray shirt and black tie, turned to the family and offered an apology.
He said he could never step into the shoes of Bowling's family and understand their 'severe” situation.
'I'm just so sorry. I wish I could bring Stephanie back. I'd take her place,” Brown said.
He said he understands his actions led to Bowling's death.
To Bowling's mother, Tricia Eilers, Brown said, 'To lose your daughter is to lose your whole world.”
To the rest of the family, Brown said his actions have taken away their opportunity to create new memories with their daughter, mother, granddaughter and friend.
Brown said he is going to therapy for mental health evaluation and counseling. He also has enrolled in the Iowa Domestic Abuse Program.
Prosecutor Jennifer Erger said that during the trial, Brown lacked remorse or responsibility. Back in 2018, he had 'multiple chances” to walk away from the situation, she said, but he didn't.
Brown's attorney, Thomas Viner, countered, asking the judge for a deferred sentence.
'This incident is an anomaly,” Viner said, citing Brown's previously clean record.
Viner said a deferred sentence would give Brown time to work to begin paying off the restitution and court fines.
'He can't change what happened. The only option Brown has is what to do now. There is not enough prison time to make that OK. This pain can't be fixed. A deferred judgment would require additional probation and demands more accountability than prison would,” Viner argued.
Grady said that during the trial, he was 'very interested” in what Brown had to say.
He found the 'markers of an abusive relationship” in the evidence and testimony disturbing.
'The evidence showed the defendant was very controlling. ... This was a relationship becoming more dangerous for this young woman. She tried to end it and it turned out to be too late,” Grady said. '
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