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KLAPHEKE TRIAL: Jurors will finish watching near 7-hour police interview Friday

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Doug Myers, Digital Media Manager, dmyers@ktxs.com
Published On: Jan 30 2014 11:20:01 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 01 2014 10:38:15 AM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

Jurors are watching a 6-hour, 44-minute, Aug. 28, 2012 police interview with Tiffany Klapheke after she came home and found her toddler daughter unresponsive from what authorities have said was severe neglect. They will finish watching the video at 9 a.m. Friday.

Klapheke, 23, is accused of neglecting and failing to feed her daughters to the point where one of them – 22-month-old Tamryn – died. The child’s two young siblings were found in deteriorating conditions but ultimately survived.  

"I didn't believe what I was seeing," Klapheke said during the interview about when she noticed Tamryn wasn't responding, the child's lips purple.

Later in the interview, Klapheke told police: "I don't want you to take them away because I was lazy," referring to her two other daughters who survived the alleged neglect.

In the video, Klapheke could be seen crying and hyperventilating when police first started talking to her. At one point, she offered to take a lie detector test to prove she was being honest about the events of the day leading up to her discovery of Tamryn's death. During the interview, she also broke into tears when police began asking her about the state she found Tamryn in.

Meanwhile, Klapheke told police she had asked for a divorce from her now ex-husband, Thomas, when she was driving him to the airport for his summer deployment to Oman. Later, she said, the two decided to try to work things out, but that she had wanted a divorce because she felt neglected and alone.

Klapheke said she was overwhelmed caring for the three children alone. According to Klapheke’s attorneys, Thomas voluntarily deployed. He filed for divorce after Tamryn's death.

When asked about the chemical burns on Tamryn's body, Klapheke told Det. Eric Vickers, who conducted the interview, "I wouldn't hurt her. I wouldn't put her in harm's way."

Klapheke said she didn’t understand how Tamryn died, but speculated that she feared Tamryn may have choked on cereal at some point. 

"I've been honest even though it makes me look horrible. I've told you everything," Klapheke told the detective.

Klapheke said she was overwhelmed.

"I really wasn't a good mom the past few days," Klapheke said, repeatedly insisting to see her surviving children during the 2012 interview.  

Initially, Klapheke said she didn’t need a lawyer. Then, after more than one hour of questioning, she asked, “I can't think straight right now...do I need a lawyer?"

The video is being played as part of the second day of testimony in the Klapheke trial.  

Klapheke was arrested in August 2012 and charged with first-degree felony injury to a child. If convicted, the jury could sentence her anywhere from five to 99 years – or life – in prison.

The courtroom broke for lunch early at 11 a.m. so work can be done on the quality of the interview video.

Jurors returned at 1 p.m. to continue watching the video.

Previous story:

Jurors were shown more than 170 photos from inside the Dyess Air Force Base home where Tiffany Klapheke's 22-month-old daughter Tamryn died from what officials have called severe neglect.

The photos, presented by Abilene Police Department Officer Randall Farmer, showed food items, toys and stains on both the carpets and mattresses of Tamryn and Klapheke's two other young daughters. Witnesses said the mattress stains appeared to be human waste.

In addition, the photos showed a well-stocked kitchen, despite the autopsy indicating the toddler died of malnutrition and dehydration.

Klapheke, 23, is accused of neglecting and failing to feed her daughters to the point where one of them  – Tamryn  – ultimately died. She was arrested in August 2012 and charged with first-degree felony injury to a child. If convicted, the jury could sentence her anywhere from five to 99 years – or life – in prison.

Klapheke's then-husband, Thomas, was deployed at the time of Tamryn's death.

Farmer was one of six witnesses that prosecutors called to the stand on Wednesday. Witnesses included five Abilene police officers and a now-retired Dyess Air Force Base sergeant who said the stench inside Klapheke's home was terrible when officials arrived.

“The smell, it hit you in the face like a tennis racket. It was horrible,” said Matthew Jones, a former master sergeant at Dyess Air Force Base who was the first person inside the Klapheke home after Tiffany Klapheke called 911 on Aug. 28, 2012 to report Tamryn was unresponsive.

Abilene Police Det. Ernest Moscarelli reiterated how bad the smell was in the Klapheke home and noted what appeared to be chemical burns on the child. Other witnesses included Abilene police detectives Eric Vickers and Jeff Cowan, along with officer Wallace McDaniel.

All witnesses, except Jones, will be subject to recall.

During Wednesday's opening statements, Klapheke’s defense attorney George Parnham told the six-man, six-woman jury that insanity is not an issue in the trial. He instead talked of the abuse and neglect Klapheke allegedly suffered as a child and a disorder that he said she has.

When entering a plea before opening statements, Klapheke told the jury that she pleaded "not guilty, ladies and gentlemen." Klapheke could be seen tearing up during parts of the opening statements.

In addition to saying Klapheke was abused and neglected as a child, Parnham said Klapheke suffers from “reactive attachment disorder.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, reactive attachment disorder occurs when individuals don’t establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers. It is the result of neglect, abuse or being orphaned. It develops when a child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring attachments with others aren’t ever established, the Mayo Clinic said.

Also during opening statements, prosecutors said Tamryn was left locked in a room for about four days before Klapheke found her unresponsive  and tried to revive her with cold water.

The prosecution detailed the events leading up to Tamryn Klapheke’s death:

*- During July and August 2012, Tiffany Klapheke was often gone from midnight to about 4 a.m. while former Dyess Air Force Base airman Christopher Perez was living there.

*- On Aug. 22, 2012 she called a man named Lenny Guzman to babysit so she could get a tattoo. It’s a Chinese symbol of the mother and daughter with the birthdates of the children.

*- Aug. 24, 2012 -- four days before Tamryn's death -- was the last time Tamryn’s diaper was changed. Tamryn was locked in her room until her death.

*- On Aug. 27, 2012, Tiffany Klapheke went to Walmart at night and bought the girls some new outfits

*- On Aug. 28, 2012, Tiffany Klapheke wanted to bathe the oldest girls (including Tamryn) and realized Tamryn was unresponsive. She tried to revive her with cold water, and when that didn’t work, she called 911.

*- A Child Protective Services caseworker failed to close a 2011 case involving the Klaphekes in the computer system – and that’s why it was closed incorrectly in 2012.

“I anticipate there will be some blame thrown at CPS,” prosecutor Arimy Beasley said, adding “You will not hear that the defendant is insane. You will not hear that she’s incompetent.”

Meanwhile, the defense said the case isn’t about an insanity plea but that they plan to concentrate on Klapheke’s childhood and what’s made her who she is.

“Insanity is not an issue here,” Parnham said. “We are all born into this world without a choice of the circumstances in which we are born.”

The defense said Klapheke was sexually abused by her biological family and later abandoned  –  and that her adoptive father began sexually abusing her.

Consequently, the defense said, she suffers from the disorder that prevents her from bonding with people and that she did love her child – in her own way.

About Tiffany Klapheke’s childhood and adult life, Parnham said:

*- Tiffany Klapheke's birth mother was sexually abused.

*- Klapheke's brother was the product of a rape.

*- Her older sister – who Klapheke was close to – was eventually abandoned by birth mother and ended up abandoning her own kids.

*- Klapheke doesn’t know who her father is.

*- She was sexually abused since age 5.

*- She was eventually abandoned and given to her grandmother who could not take good care of her

*- She was offered to vagrants at a public park for sexual favors.

*- She eventually was put into foster care. She became close with one family but she was aggressive in school due to reactive attachment disorder and the foster family could not handle her because of their other adoptive kids.

*- She went to a family, where the husband molested her for about three years and threatened to kill her if she told. He later took a plea deal.

*- She moved to Dyess at age 19 after marrying former husband, Thomas.

*- Thomas Klapheke voluntarily deployed, leaving their children with her.