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KLAPHEKE TRIAL: Ex-CPS workers don't want to testify in tragic child death case

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Doug Myers, Digital Media Manager, dmyers@ktxs.com
Published On: Feb 06 2014 02:31:58 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 07 2014 01:16:19 PM CST
KLAPHEKE TRIAL: Day 5, Sketch 16

DAY 5: Sketch artist Ruth Jackson depicts accused mother Tiffany Klapheke's outburst in court when she viewed her late daughter's autopsy photos. Klapheke is accused of neglecting her toddler daughter who died after Klapheke allegedly failed to feed her.

ABILENE, Texas -

Three former Child Protective Services workers don’t want to testify in the trial of Tiffany Klapheke, a 23-year-old woman on trial for the alleged severe neglect of her toddler daughter who ultimately died.

The requests come at a time when CPS continues to face scrutiny for the agency’s handling of the Klapheke case.

Attorneys for ex-CPS Investigator Tiffany Gann, who allegedly had an affair with Klapheke’s husband Thomas after the child’s death, and former CPS supervisors Bit Whitaker and Gretchen Denny have asked that their subpoenas to testify be quashed.

District Judge Lee Hamilton is expected to rule on the motions Friday.

The trial entered it ninth day Thursday.

Whitaker and Denny are persons of interest in the criminal investigation of CPS supervisors that began in 2012 following Tamryn's death.

Their attorneys said it is risky for them to testify in the Klapheke case because it is not yet clear what charges are being considered against them. 

Meanwhile, Gann's attorney Jeff Probst has alleged the defense just wants to use Gann to deflect blame from Klapheke since the affair began after Tamryn's death.

The defense believes Gann and Thomas Klapheke talked about Tamryn's death and his role in the home during their alleged relationship – and that Gann was present during the death investigation.

The revelation of the alleged improper relationship involving Klapheke and Gann was reported to CPS leaders on May 23, 2013. The relationship allegedly occurred “in the fall of 2012,” CPS officials said.

Thomas Klapheke, a Dyess airman who was deployed at the time of his daughter’s death, later filed for divorce. Two other Klapheke daughters – who were 3 and 6 months old – were hospitalized after being found in poor condition.

Gann and CPS caseworker Rebecca Tapia were assigned to the Klapheke case. While Gann resigned, Tapia stepped down after officials determined she was aware of Gann’s alleged relationship with Thomas Klapheke, state CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins has said.

Two other CPS specialists Slade King and Megan Schweigert were reprimanded for being aware of and not disclosing the alleged relationship, CPS officials said. The two, however, never worked on the Klapheke case, according to CPS.

Previous story:

The youngest of accused mother Tiffany Klapheke’s three daughters was on the verge of death when sister Tamryn was found dead in August 2012, a Fort Worth-based child abuse specialist testified Wednesday.

“I seriously don’t think she (the youngest child who was 6 months old at the time) would have lived another day,” said Dr. Jayme Coffman, a pediatrician and director of the care team at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.

Coffman examined Tamryn's two sisters in late August 2012 – after Klapheke found Tamryn unresponsive and her siblings in pitiful shape at the Klapheke home on Dyess Air Force Base. Then-husband Thomas was deployed.

Klapheke, 23, is facing injury to a child charges in connection with toddler daughter Tamryn’s August 2012 death. Authorities have said her 22-month-old child died from malnutrition and dehydration.

Her two young sisters were also reportedly malnourished and dehydrated but survived. Each of the three Klapheke girls also reportedly suffered chemical burns, believed to be the result of feces on their bodies.

Of the oldest Klapheke child's chemical burns, Coffman said: "This was way beyond a diaper rash. It was like a second-degree burn." The oldest child was age 3 at the time of Tamryn's death.

Coffman said oldest Klapheke child wasn't at risk of immediate death like the youngest child. According to Coffman, the youngest child looked "emaciated."

Meanwhile, a former supervisor over Thomas Klapheke at Dyess AFB said he offered to babysit the children four days before Tamryn died – and Tiffany Klapheke reportedly said she didn't need help.

The Klapheke trial entered its eighth day Wednesday.