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The military wife set to go on trial next week in the August 2012 death of her toddler at her home on Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, was granted a 120-day continuance Tuesday after firing her court-appointed attorney.
Tiffany Klapheke has hired new lawyers, according to Abilene KTXS, including George Parnham, who in a 2006 retrial successfully defended Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
John Young, another Texas lawyer now defending Klapheke, told the TV station there are “significant and difficult mental health issues in this case.”
Klapheke also told the station in a jailhouse interview that her court-appointed lawyer was not aware of the depth of her family’s mental health history.
Klapheke’s husband, Dyess Senior Airman Thomas Klapheke, had deployed about two months before 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke was found dead in their Dyess home. An autopsy report showed the child had died from dehydration and malnutrition as a result of prolonged neglect.
In a highly publicized TV interview, Klapheke blamed Tamryn’s death on her husband’s deployment and the stress of caring for three young children, all of whom were in diapers.
The two surviving children, who also showed signs of neglect, were 6 months old and 3 and were placed in foster care.
Another senior airman at Dyess, Christopher Perez, was living in the Klaphekes’ base home at the time of the toddler’s death. Tiffany Klapheke met Perez after placing a personal ad online. Perez, who is now facing court-martial for failing to report the neglect, told authorities after Tamryn died that Tiffany Klapheke would lock the children up for days. He said he did not believe it was his place to interfere.
The state’s Child Protective Services and the Dyess Family Advocacy Program had investigated the Klaphekes multiple times for alleged neglect in the two years leading up to Tamryn’s death. CPS closed its final investigation days before Tamryn died, and did so without a required final home visit and approval from a supervisor.
The case worker is no longer employed by CPS. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner, Howard Baldwin, also resigned in the aftermath of the girl’s death.
CPS in June announced the resignation of a case worker assigned to the Klapheke investigation after Tamryn died. The agency said she had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with Thomas Klapheke.
Thomas and Tiffany Klapheke are now divorced.
If convicted in Tamryn’s death, Tiffany Klapheke faces up to 99 years in prison.