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KLAPHEKE CASE: Texas child welfare head steps down amid Abilene-based CPS probe

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Published On: Nov 09 2012 07:44:44 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 27 2014 03:20:54 PM CST
Tiffany Klapheke

Tiffany Klapheke, 23, was arrested in August 2012 after she called 911 and first responders found her toddler – Tamryn – unresponsive on Dyess Air Force Base.

She is charged with first-degree felony injury to a child. If convicted, she could be sentenced from five to 99 years – or life – in prison.

Abilene Police announced their investigation into a select few Child Protective Services supervisors in mid-October. There have been several staffing changes since, including the Thursday resignation of Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Howard Baldwin.

“We have 2 simultaneous investigations. We have an investigation reference the actual death of the Klapheke child and we also have a tampering investigation stemming from conduct from three, perhaps four CPS supervisors,” Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said.

Regional Director Bit Whitaker, Ex-Program Director Gretchen Denny and Investigation Supervisor Barbara McDaniel are being investigated by for tampering with or fabricating evidence in the death investigation of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke at Dyess Air Force Base.

Tamryn’s mother, Tiffany, is in jail following neglect allegations. Her airman husband, Thomas, filed for divorce October 8.

 According to CPS, case worker Claudia Gonzales closed an 11-month investigation into the Klapheke home just six days before Tamryn died. Gonzales has since resigned.

A few days after the criminal investigation began, Commissioner Baldwin, head of the child welfare agency, placed the supervisors on paid, emergency leave. Program Administrator Geneva Shroeder was placed on similar leave soon after.

In his resignation notice to staff, Baldwin said: “Serving as your Commissioner for the last year has been among the highest honors of my career. Each day and during my regional visits I have seen first-hand the dedication of this agency’s tireless staff and your individual commitments to the children, elderly and the families we serve. I will be leaving DFPS to pursue other health and human services work, but please know that my admiration for your hard work will be something that will stay with me always. While I have worked with many outstanding professionals in my career, none surpass the dedication and commitment of you and your staff. Thanks for all you do, and keep up your outstanding efforts on behalf of all the people we serve.”

Chief Standridge said Baldwin’s resignation will not change the criminal investigation.

Baldwin’s supervisor, Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek of Health and Human Services said Baldwin’s resignation stemmed from his interest in “new opportunities.” The State will not provide any comments on the investigation.

Commissioner Baldwin’s resignation will go in effect November 30. Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Sims will fill in for him until DFPS finds a replacement.

State Representative Susan King, who sits on the Article II Appropriations Committee that provides funding for DFPS spoke to KTXS Friday about the criminal investigation into CPS.

"Something needs to be done to find out what in fact might have led to this," King said. "If there's issues with regard to the functioning of this agency, and I think that's why the state is putting out every effort now to find out exactly what needs to be done, and I suspect that the next person that is appointed commissioner will be extremely well thought of in this area because they've got to make sure they have one that can come in and look at this whole system statewide and deal with what it is and make improvements. It has to happen."

Meanwhile, Senior airman Christopher Perez is awaiting an Air Force hearing on charges of failing to report child abuse or neglect, adultery and child endangerment in relation to the case.

Perez allegedly was involved in a relationship with Tiffany Klapheke at the time when the children were being neglected and her husband was deployed.

Dyess officials have said Perez could be dismissed or court-martialed because of the charges.

A hearing date for the Dyess airman has reportedly been set for Nov. 19.