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KLAPHEKE TRIAL: Sentencing phase begins after mother found guilty of injuring child by omission

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Doug Myers, Digital Media Manager, dmyers@ktxs.com
Published On: Feb 12 2014 07:33:45 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 13 2014 09:13:00 AM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

A six-man, six-woman jury on Wednesday found accused mother Tiffany Klapheke guilty of injury to a child by omission.

Klapheke, 23, was accused of failing to provide adequate food, water and medical attention to her and ex-husband Thomas's 22-month-old daughter Tamryn before the toddler died on Aug. 28, 2012. The child’s two young siblings were also found in deteriorating conditions but ultimately survived.

The trial, which is now in its 14th day, enters the sentencing phase Thursday. Klapheke now faces up to life in prison.

Klapheke broke down in tears when the verdict was read.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Joel Wilks said, “On that Friday (four days before 22-month-old Tamryn’s death) she made her choice … she turned her back on that child.”

In response, defense attorney George Parnham said: “There’s more than Tiffany Klapheke that bears responsibility in this case.”

Parnham asked the jury to find Klapheke not guilty.

Meanwhile, as the jury was deliberating Klapheke's guilt or innocence Wednesday, jurors asked District Judge Lee Hamilton two questions: (1) What is the true definition of reasonable doubt? (2) What is the penalty range for the lesser charge?

Addressing the jury, Hamilton said, "The law does not permit me to answer these questions. I must simply refer you to the court's charge."

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The jury in the trial of 23-year-old Tiffany Klapheke, who is accused of neglecting her toddler to the point of death in 2012, is expected begin deliberating Wednesday. 

While defense attorneys finished questioning their last witness Tuesday morning, prosecutors called four rebuttal witnesses before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

Neuropsychologist Samuel Brinkman, an expert witness for the defense, said Monday that Klapheke was “always a half a step away from a train wreck” even when she was “functioning at her best.”

On Tuesday, Brinkman testified Klapheke was showing symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder around the time of toddler daughter Tamryn’s Aug. 28, 2012 death.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Borderline Personality Disorder is “a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior and relationships.”

Brinkman said Klapheke had also been previously treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder and depression as a result of the abuse she was subject to in her childhood.

Testifying as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution Tuesday, psychotherapist Marc Orner said he agreed with much of Brinkman’s assessment of the accused mother. However, Orner said Klapheke may also have narcissistic, dependent, inadequate or antisocial disorders. Orner said he had never interviewed Klapheke but that he had reviewed her records and the lengthy video of police interrogating her.  

Other rebuttal witnesses included Dyess mother Maria Ramos, who is married to one of Thomas Klapheke’s former supervisors.

Ramos said she and her husband had the Klaphekes over for dinner a few times and had offered to babysit their children to help them out while they were being investigated for possible neglect at Dyess Air Force Base.

Klapheke’s then-husband Thomas was deployed when Klapheke found daughter unresponsive at the family home on base.

Despite defense witness claims that Klapheke could have been in a dissociative, trance-like state around the time of Tamryn’s death, Sandra Siedl – a Stripes Convenience Stores employee and rebuttal witness – said she had seen Klapheke the night before Tamryn died and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Sandy Carlile, Klapheke’s former boss at Abilene Bowling Lanes, who was also called as a rebuttal witness, said Klapheke had called the police three times when she felt they were needed while she had worked there in 2012. In a hearing prior to calling Carlile, prosecutors said that testimony suggests Klapheke did not have a problem reaching out for help when she was stressed.

104th District Court Judge Lee Hamilton will give the jury their instructions at 9 a.m. Wednesday. After closing arguments, the jury will begin deliberating Klapheke’s guilt or innocence. If convicted, Klapheke could face up to life in prison.