An 18-year old from Western Iowa has been sentenced to 45-years in prison for her role in a fatal fire last March. Tracy Dyess, who was 17 when that fire killed two children at her family home, appeared this morning in a Cass County courtroom to plead guilty to setting the fire.
Before pronouncing the sentence, Judge Jeffrey L. Larson asked Dyess why she did it. The judge asked “What was your intent in starting the fire?” Dyess responded, “To kill Brian.” The judge continued, “Who was Brian,” and Tracy Dyess answered simply, “My step-dad.” Her stepfather, Brian Street, survived the fire, but two younger children died that night, Tracey’s 13-year old sister Jessica and six-year old nephew Kaleb.
Her answers were very brief, mostly single syllables: as the judge asked who was there the night of the fire, Dyess responded, “Jessica, Kalbe, my mom and Brian.” Judge Larson pressed her to confirm details of that night, asking, “Did you know that the four of them were present in the house when you lit the fire?” to which Dyess responded, “yes.” The judge then asked, “Did you do anything to warn any of the four that the fire was started?” Dyess answered simply, “No.”
Dyess pleaded guilty to a charge of arson, two counts of attempted murder, and two charges of voluntary manslaughter, which had been reduced from two original charges of first-degree murder. In the courtroom today (Tuesday), Dyess explained to the judge she set the fire because she was afraid of what Street might do later that night. “I set the fire because I knew I was going to left alone with Brian, I knew what was going to happen.” The judge asked her to be more clear, and after saying her mother was preparing to leave the house and she’d be alone with her stepfather, Dyess told the judge, “I knew he was going to force himself on me.”
Before the sentencing, the judge gave the teen an opportunity to make a statement. Dyess told him she felt remorse for the loss of her siblings. Dyess says “I miss Kaleb and Jessica and I think about ’em every day, and I wish I could go back and take it all back.” Afterward, the judge sentenced Dyess to 45-years in prison at the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Oakdale, where she will undergo rehabilitation. The teen could be released in about 22 and a-half years if she meets the terms of her treatment.