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The biggest Abilene crime stories of 2012

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Published On: Dec 27 2012 07:52:40 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 27 2014 03:27:01 PM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

The City of Abilene saw a number of alarming crimes in 2012.

In July, the Abilene Police Department released crime statistics that showed an increase in violent crime for the first six months of the year compared to 2011. The trend continued.

On April 15,  a fatal one car accident on FM 600 shocked the community. The driver, 17-year-old Eliseo Garza, hit a tree--killing two Abilene teens and injuring three others.

A Jones County Grand Jury charged Garza with intoxicated manslaughter and aggravated assault. He is in the Jones Co. Jail on bond totaling $500,000.

In early August, 12-year-old Zackary McDaniel was shot in the head and hospitalized in Ft. Worth after what police said was a drug deal gone wrong on North 9th Street. 

Christopher Mack, 22, was initially arrested and charged for the shooting. But police later arrested 17-year-old Keegan Clark for firing the shot that hit McDaniel. Mack is now charged only with tampering with evidence.

On August 17th, 19-year-old Joseph Fowler was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide for recklessly handling a gun that went off and killed his best friend, Michael Huffman, in 2011.

Fowler faced a maximum sentence of two years in jail but was instead sentenced to five years probation. Not long after, he was arrested on a minor in consumption of alcohol charge and will go back before a judge to determine whether he violated his probation.

The crime story that caught the most attention was the arrest of 22-year-old Dyess mother Tiffany Klapheke. She allegedly neglected her three daughters, resulting in the death of her 22-month-old daughter, Tamryn.

"I know people hate me and I don't understand but it was not my intention," Klapheke said. "I just wanted a break for my own sanity, that's all. I didn't mean for it to go so far."

Klapheke's husband, Thomas, was deployed in the Middle East at the time of their daughter's death but returned and filed for divorce.

He was not the only man in the picture, however, and Klapheke's live-in boyfriend Senior Airman Christopher Perez, 23, underwent a military hearing for his involvement in the home. Perez may face court martial.

Tamryn's death was the catalyst for an Abilene police investigation into Child Protective Services. According to CPS, caseworker Claudia Gonzales closed an 11-month investigation into the home just six days before Tamryn died and without a final visit.

CPS officials said Gonzales did not follow protocol when she closed the case; however, police are investigating three supervisors (Bit Whitaker, Barbara McDaniel and Gretchen Denny) for trying to cover up the agency's involvement in the Klapheke home.

"In the days following the death of this child, the department became aware of instances in which CPS employees were told by CPS supervisors not to cooperate with law enforcement," Chief Standridge said.

To date, criminal charges have not been filed against the supervisors.

On September 27, First Bank Texas on South First Street was robbed at gunpoint. A few days later, 40-year-old Frank Esparza Sr. of El Paso was charged with the armed robbery. His son, 17-year-old Frank Esparza Jr., and a 16-year-old also had roles to play in the robbery.

Abilene police shot and killed a co-owner of the Abilene Gold Exchange December 13 as they were serving a search warrant at the business on South Danville Drive.

The business was being investigated for failing to report their transactions to the state. Officers said co-owner Marcus Cass pulled a gun on them and one officer shot and killed him.