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KLAPHEKE TRIAL: Week 2 included outbursts, eyebrow-raising revelations

By Ariana Garza, Weekend Anchor/Crime & Courts Reporter, agarza@ktxs.com
Doug Myers, Digital Media Manager, dmyers@ktxs.com
Published On: Feb 09 2014 01:16:16 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 10 2014 01:50:54 PM CST
ABILENE, Texas -

A look back at Week 2 of the trial of accused mother Tiffany Klapheke through the words of KTXS crime/courts reporter Ariana Garza and KTXS Digital Media Manager Doug Myers.

Klapheke, 23, is on trial for allegedly failing to provide adequate food, water and medical attention to 22-month-old Tamryn before she died. The child’s two young siblings were also found in deteriorating conditions but ultimately survived.

The trial resumes Monday.

*****

Monday, Feb. 3 (Day 6)

Prosecution objects to phone call between Klapheke, adoptive mother

Prosecutors say they would object to testimony from accused mom Tiffany Klapheke’s adoptive mother because of a recorded jail phone call between the two last Thursday.

According to prosecutors, the phone call – in which Klapheke and Tina Romano talked about unfair news coverage and Klapheke’s potential punishment – violated a judge’s rule prohibiting contact with potential witnesses.

The Taylor County trial of the 23-year-old Klapheke entered its second week Monday. She 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.

District Judge Lee Hamilton invoked a rule prohibiting both potential and actual trial witnesses from talking about the case.

Romano is a potential witness for the defense.

Prosecutors would like the recorded conversation played during the trial to show Romano broke the judge's rule and shouldn't be allowed to testify for the defense.

While Klapheke’s defense attorneys say the phone conversation should be played in private, prosecutors say they would like it to be played in public.

It could be admitted into court - either publicly or privately - as early as Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Romano, who lives in Kentucky, spoke with Klapheke about unfair news coverage and what she believed Klapheke’s punishment should be down to a specific sentence.

Meanwhile, a cart of evidence was rolled into court Monday, including  a small trashcan of dirty diapers, a stained playpen mattress and stained piece of carpet – all from the Klapheke home.

Prosecutors have said Klapheke – before Tamryn’s death – locked the toddler in a room for four days when she found the child dead and called 911.

Previous story:

Accused mom Tiffany Klapheke had requested tubal ligation – commonly known as having her “tubes tied” – after daughter Tamryn’s birth, her defense attorneys said Monday.

The Taylor County trial of the 23-year-old Klapheke entered its second week Monday. She is facing injury to a child charges in connection with Tamryn’s August 2012 death. Authorities have said her 22-month-old daughter died from malnutrition and dehydration.

Klapheke’s defense made the tubal ligation revelation after Dyess Air Force Base pediatrician Dr. Christine Hodge testified that nothing was medically wrong with Tamryn to explain her developmental delays.

Hodge said Tamryn’s developmental delays included failure to gain weight and her head circumference dropping off, among other things.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Klapheke didn’t have her tubes tied after filing a request to do so. She later had her third child.

Klapheke's two other young daughters also suffered from malnutrition and dehydration when found, but they survived.

Meanwhile, during cross examination, her defense pointed out Klapheke had her own concerns about Tamryn’s health.

Hodge, the pediatrician, said she contacted the Dyess Family Advocacy Center more than once about the Klapheke household and that the Family Advocacy Center would then contact the state Child Protective Services.

CPS's handling of the case has come under fire since Tamryn's death.

Four  former Child Protective Service workers – and one current employee – are on the witness list for the trial.

All had some involvement in the Klapheke investigation that CPS undertook before the child died.

Only one is still working for CPS.  The others either resigned or were fired by the agency because of their involvement in the Klapheke investigation.

*****

Tuesday, Feb. 4 (Day 7)

Potential witness can testify despite speaking with accused mother

Tiffany Klapheke’s adoptive mother can be called as a defense witness despite prosecution’s claim Klapheke’s calls to her from jail – since the trial began – violated a rule prohibiting witnesses from speaking about the case.

That’s according to District Judge Lee Hamilton, who listened to prosecutors and Klapheke’s defense attorneys before making the decision.

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.

Prosecutors allege the witness rule was violated when Klapheke called Tina Romano, who lives in Kentucky, last Thursday – during the fourth day of the trial – and on Saturday and Sunday.

During the phone conversations, Klapheke and Romano talked about another media outlet's unfair news coverage and about Tamryn's autopsy photos.

In one part of the calls, Klapheke speculated about tampering of evidence in her case, alleging the prosecution may have motive.

Previous story:

Thomas and Tiffany Klapheke were investigated for domestic violence in April 2010, more than two years before the Klaphekes’ toddler daughter Tamryn died from what authorities have said was severe neglect.

Ed Wilcock, a social worker with the Dyess Family Advocacy Center, made that revelation Tuesday during the seventh day of the child neglect trial of Tiffany Klapheke.

In addition, Wilcock testified the three Klapheke daughters – Tamryn, Tatum and Taberlee – weren't brought in for medical appointments on Dyess Air Force Base eight or nine times.

Wilcock said he told Klapheke her children were fragile and needed proper nutrition to prevent serious problems or even death. He also said parenting classes, nurse home visits and mental health services were available on base for the Klaphekes.

According to Wilcock, the Dyess investigation of the Klapheke home was closed in December 2011 after improvement was observed.

Tamryn was found dead at the Klapheke home on Dyess Air Force Base on Aug. 28, 2012. Authorities have said the 22-month-old child died from malnutrition and dehydration.

Siblings Tatum and Taberlee were hospitalized and barely survived the supposed neglect.

Klapheke was 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.

Thomas and Tiffany Klapheke divorced after Tamryn's death. He was voluntarily deployed when the child was found.

Wilcock said he would have advised against his deployment if he had known.

Meanwhile, Dr. Justin Smith, the pediatrician on call at Hendrick Medical Center the night Tamryn died, testified Tuesday about what he saw when he treated Tamryn’s siblings Tatum and Taberlee.

Prosecutors have said Klapheke – before Tamryn’s death – locked the toddler in a room for four days when she found the child dead and called 911.

The two sisters reportedly were suffering from malnutrition and dehydration when they were brought in on Aug. 28, 2012. However, unlike Tamryn, they survived.

*****

Wednesday, Feb. 5 (Day 8)

Surviving daughter was near death when sister found dead, doctor testifies

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.

*****

Thursday, Feb. 6 (Day 9)

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

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:

Thomas and Tiffany Klapheke were investigated for domestic violence in April 2010, more than two years before the Klaphekes’ toddler daughter Tamryn died from what authorities have said was severe neglect.

Ed Wilcock, a social worker with the Dyess Family Advocacy Center, made that revelation Tuesday during the seventh day of the child neglect trial of Tiffany Klapheke.

In addition, Wilcock testified the three Klapheke daughters – Tamryn, Tatum and Taberlee – weren't brought in for medical appointments on Dyess Air Force Base eight or nine times.

Wilcock said he told Klapheke her children were fragile and needed proper nutrition to prevent serious problems or even death. He also said parenting classes, nurse home visits and mental health services were available on base for the Klaphekes.

According to Wilcock, the Dyess investigation of the Klapheke home was closed in December 2011 after improvement was observed.

Tamryn was found dead at the Klapheke home on Dyess Air Force Base on Aug. 28, 2012. Authorities have said the 22-month-old child died from malnutrition and dehydration.

Siblings Tatum and Taberlee were hospitalized and barely survived the supposed neglect.

Klapheke was 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.

Thomas and Tiffany Klapheke divorced after Tamryn's death. He was voluntarily deployed when the child was found.

Wilcock said he would have advised against his deployment if he had known.

Meanwhile, Dr. Justin Smith, the pediatrician on call at Hendrick Medical Center the night Tamryn died, testified Tuesday about what he saw when he treated Tamryn’s siblings Tatum and Taberlee.

Prosecutors have said Klapheke – before Tamryn’s death – locked the toddler in a room for four days when she found the child dead and called 911.

The two sisters reportedly were suffering from malnutrition and dehydration when they were brought in on Aug. 28, 2012. However, unlike Tamryn, they survived.

*****

Friday, Feb. 7 (Day 10)

Did ex-husband's mother take out insurance policy before toddler's death?

Defense attorney George Parnham minced no words Friday while questioning the ex-husband of 23-year-old Tiffany Klapheke, who is on trial for severe neglect of toddler daughter Tamryn befor child died.

Parnham asked Thomas Klapheke about a life insurance policy that Thomas’ mother allegedly took out on Tamryn before Thomas voluntarily deployed and before the child’s August 2012 death.

Prosecutors objected to that question – and Thomas wasn’t required to answer.

Parnham also asked Thomas if he got any insurance compensation from the military after Tamryn’s death, another question that he wasn’t mandated to answer.

The trial entered it 10th day Friday.

Meanwhile, Tiffany Klapheke became emotional during her ex-husband’s testimony, rocking back and forth in her chair and crying as he answered questions.

Prosecutors objected to Klapheke crying because they said it was distracting for the six-man, six-woman jury.

“I’ll get it together,” Klapheke promised District Judge Lee Hamilton.

Previously at the trial, when a phone conversation was played between her and adoptive mom Tina Romano, Klapheke said it would be hard to see Thomas in court.

Meanwhile, District Judge Lee Hamilton ruled Friday that Tiffany Gann - one of the three former Child Protective Services workers who have asked not to testify - will be required to testify but that she can't be questioned about her affair with Thomas Klapheke.

The requests to not testify come at a time when CPS continues to face scrutiny for the agency’s handling of the Klapheke case.

Attorneys for Gann, an ex-CPS investigator, and former CPS supervisors Bit Whitaker and Gretchen Denny had asked that their subpoenas to testify be quashed. Hamilton hasn't ruled on the requests by Whitaker and Denny.

Court documents show Gann’s relationship with Thomas lasted six to eight weeks.

Outside the presence of the jury and during a hearing to determine whether she should testify, Gann broke down into tears. She asked for a break after the defense got specific on when her intimacy with Thomas began.

Gann said she met Thomas at Cabo's bar in September 2012, but not when she was involved in the CPS investigation into Tamryn’s death.

Gann said she realized who Thomas was when she and her CPS friends started playing darts with him and his friends at Cabo's.

Meanwhile, 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.