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Iowa Court of Appeals upholds murder, child endangerment conviction in death of 5-year-old

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 2:18 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 8:20 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a Chicago man in the 2018 death of 5-year-old Ja’Shawn Bussell in Davenport.

Tre Henderson, 29, is serving a life sentence after a Scott County jury convicted him in February 2020 of first-degree murder, child endangerment-multiple acts, and child endangerment resulting in death.

He argued on appeal that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. On the murder charge, he argued the evidence was insufficient to prove he did an act that caused the death of Bussell or that he acted with malice aforethought.

The Court of Appeals disagreed.

“While Henderson is correct in his assertion there is no witness with personal, direct observation of him inflicting injury on (Bussell), we determine the State presented significant circumstantial evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Henderson caused the injuries to (Bussell),” the Court of Appeals wrote in an opinion released Wednesday.

Bussell’s mother and Henderson’s former girlfriend, Jacqueline Rambert, called 911 the night of April 27, 2018, and said her son was choking and unresponsive in their apartment on Emerald Drive in Davenport, according to trial testimony.

The boy was rushed to a local hospital and then airlifted to University Hospitals in Iowa City. He died May 1, 2018, from complications due to blunt-force injuries to his head.

Rambert testified that Henderson told her he beat the boy with a belt after he urinated and soiled himself on April 20, 2018.

Two days later, she was at work when Henderson brought Bussell to her workplace and claimed he fell off the kitchen counter.

Over the next several days, the boy was vomiting and barely eating, Rambert said.

She admitted that she punched the boy in his side, breaking his ribs, at one point because she was frustrated and nervous when he would not stop biting his lip.

Henderson testified that he never struck the boy or hit him with a belt. He also denied causing Bussell’s fatal injury and said he never saw Rambert hit the boy.

Rambert pleaded guilty to two counts of child endangerment in January and was sentenced in March 2020 to 50 years in prison. She must serve at least 20 years before she is eligible for parole. She was given credit for time already spent in the Scott County Jail.

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