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CPS worker in 2012 Dyess toddler death charged with evidence tampering

Jul. 28, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Tamryn Klapheke
Tamryn Klapheke (Photo courtesy of Klapheke family)
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Abilene, Texas, police have charged a former state child protective services worker with tampering with evidence in the case of a toddler found dead at her Dyess Air Force Base home nearly two years ago.

Martha Keil Whitaker, 58, was a CPS regional director in Abilene for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services when 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke died from malnutrition and dehydration in August 2012. Two months later, Abilene police announced it was investigating allegations CPS workers tried to alter, destroy or conceal evidence in the case. The agency had opened — and closed — three investigations into the Klapheke family before Tamryn’s death.

The third CPS case was closed without a required home visit and supervisor approval just days before the toddler died. CPS employees were allegedly told by supervisors not to cooperate with law enforcement, Abilene police chief Stan Standridge said in a news release in October 2012. “Additionally, records were requested by detectives as part of the ongoing investigation. However, those records were not immediately rendered. Eventually they were provided, but only after several days had lapsed and the district attorney requested the same records. Even then the records were not believed to be complete, thus complicating law enforcement’s investigation into the child’s death.”

Detectives seized documents and electronic media from the local CPS office and a CPS supervisor’s home, Standbridge said at the time.

Whitaker, who retired in March 2013, was arrested Saturday and released the same day on a $1,000 bond, according to Taylor County jail records. Tampering with evidence is a felony, court records show. The date of the alleged offense is listed as Aug. 29, 2012, a day after Tamryn died.

Whitaker retired in March 2013, said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The agency has no comment on her arrest, he said Monday.

Tamryn’s mother, Tiffany Klapheke, was sentenced in February to 30 years in prison for first degree felony injury to a child. Her husband, then-Senior Airman Thomas Klapheke, was deployed at the time of the child’s death.

Thomas Klapheke has since left the Air Force and divorced Tiffany Klapheke. The couple’s two other daughters, who were 6 months and 3 years in August 2012, are living with relatives.

A senior airman who was living with Tiffany Klapheke when Tamryn died was sentenced in October to three years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. Senior Airman Christopher Perez was having an affair with the girl’s mother, according to court-martial testimony.

Perez was convicted of adultery and child endangerment.

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