COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A retired Air Force chaplain described by an El Paso County judge as a "serial child molester" was sentenced Monday to 10-years-to-life in prison.
David Alan Grosse, 79, learned his penalty after a tearful apology in which he raised his voice to a piercing wail in asking for forgiveness.
His emotional appeals were delivered in the practiced rhythms of a veteran preacher. They failed to persuade a courtroom packed with skeptical relatives from three states, however, not to mention the judge deciding his fate.
"Your claims of sorrow are not as legitimate as you would have us believe," said El Paso County District Judge Larry E. Schwartz, citing reports that after pleading guilty in the case earlier this year, Grosse minimized his abuses during a pre-sentencing investigation and tried to shift blame to the girl and her parents.
Said his daughter-in-law Michelle Grosse of North Carolina: "He's spent so much time over the past 10 years lying to us. Does 'sorry' really cut it?"
Under Colorado's stiff sentencing laws for sex offenders, Grosse can be held in prison up to the rest of his life, or until he is deemed safe for the community.
A former Air Force chaplain who retired as a colonel in 1993 after 30 years of service, Grosse was arrested last year on suspicion of sexually abusing four granddaughters, with authorities alleging he coaxed them to accept his touching as part of their "special relationship."
Grosse pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust under a plea bargain that tossed remaining counts against him.
According to an online biography, Grosse holds an advanced degree from Yale University Divinity School and served as a pastor at churches in Connecticut, Kansas, California and Wyoming.
In requesting a prison sentence, Jennifer Darby spoke of the "two David Alan Grosses" — the "pillar of society" who sat on charitable boards and offered counsel on matters of faith, and the man who preyed on children "behind closed doors."
Among those who addressed the court at Grosse's sentencing was a granddaughter who called herself his first victim.
Now a nurse living in Denver, she was 16 when she reported being inappropriately touched by her grandfather. Grosse vigorously denied the allegation, and the family decided against involving law enforcement officers.
But when another granddaughter stepped forward two years ago, others followed, all giving similar descriptions.
"First he denied it, blatantly. Then he acknowledged that maybe there were 'inappropriate interactions.' Then he blamed everybody else," said the Denver nurse, who said she declined to press charges after Grosse fell under suspicion.
The woman's mother, who lives in Divide, said that when confronted, Grosse lashed out her for sending him photographs of her daughter bathing nude as a child, and implied that "it was everybody else's fault that he acted that way."
Other grandchildren who spent time with Grosse have been questioned about their interactions, and deny they were abused, relatives say.