Trial for mom charged in daughter's death opens

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Associated Press

Posted on January 30, 2014 at 5:02 PM

ABILENE, Texas (AP) — Witnesses testified Wednesday about squalid conditions in the home of a West Texas woman who's accused in the death of her 22-month-old daughter.

The trial for Tiffany Klapheke, who is charged with injury to a child in the August 2012 death of Tamryn Klapheke, started Wednedsay. The child was found dead of malnutrition and dehydration in Klapheke's Abilene home.

Prosecutors said Klapheke, now 23, had kept the child locked in a room for four days before she found her dead in her crib and called 911.

Investigators told the Taylor County jury of a stench of urine and feces that prevailed in the Klapheke home when they arrived. And Abilene police Detective Earnest Moscarelli said some rooms in the house were covered in feces.

Matthew Jones, a retired Air Force master sergeant, was a Dyess Air Force Base security officer in August 2012 and the first investigator to arrive at the Klapheke home after the woman had called 911.

He said the smell of urine and feces in the house "hit you in the face like a tennis racket." Jones said he could not wash the stench from his uniform afterward and had to discard it.

Klapheke had told investigators that the overseas deployment of her husband, an airman at the nearby Air Force base, left her too stressed to care for their three children.

In opening statements, defense attorney George Parnham spoke of sexual abuse and neglect that Klapheke suffered growing up in foster homes. He also said she suffers from reactive attachment disorder, which is usually found in children who cannot form health attachments with parents or caregivers because of past neglect or abuse.

"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."

Prosecutor Arimy Beasley acknowledged that Klapheke's upbringing was traumatic and tragic, but that did not absolve her of possible fatal neglect.

If convicted, Klapheke could receive a sentence of up to life imprisonment.

Air Force airman Thomas Klapheke has divorced his wife and the state has temporary conservatorship of the children, with their father granted restrictive custody.

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