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Texas mom guilty in daughter's malnutrition death

Feb. 12, 2014 - 10:53PM   |  
Escorted by sheriff's deputies, Tiffany Klapheke, right, leaves the jury selection room Jan. 27 at the Taylor County Courthouse in Abilene, Texas. Klapheke is with injury to a child in the August 2012 death of her 22-month-old daughter, Tamryn Klapheke, who died of malnutrition and dehydration. (AP Photo/Abilene Reporter-News, Nellie Doneva)
Escorted by sheriff's deputies, Tiffany Klapheke, right, leaves the jury selection room Jan. 27 at the Taylor County Courthouse in Abilene, Texas. Klapheke is with injury to a child in the August 2012 death of her 22-month-old daughter, Tamryn Klapheke, who died of malnutrition and dehydration. (AP Photo/Abilene Reporter-News, Nellie Doneva) (Nellie Doneva / AP)
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ABILENE, TEXAS — A West Texas woman was convicted Wednesday in the starvation death of her 22-month-old daughter.

The Abilene Reporter-News reports that 23-year-old Tiffany Klapheke was found guilty of injury to a child in the 2012 death of Tamryn Klapheke. The Taylor County jury returned with the verdict after about six hours of deliberation.

The jury is set to begin deliberations in the punishment phase Thursday morning. Tiffany Klapheke faces up to life in prison.

Klapheke cried as the verdict was read.

Prosecutors alleged the mother failed to feed her three daughters, leading to the death of her youngest one. According to prosecutors, Klapheke had kept Tamryn locked in a room for four days before she found her dead in her crib and called 911.

In closing statements, prosecutor Joel Wilks said Klapheke “turned her back,” adding, “She shuts the door and she leaves. She leaves that child in pain.”

Klapheke, who didn’t testify, has said her Air Force husband’s deployment overseas left her too stressed to care for the couple’s three girls.

Airman Thomas Klapheke has since divorced Tiffany Klapheke. The state has temporary conservatorship of the couple’s surviving children, with their father granted restrictive custody.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony from expert witnesses who spoke about Tiffany Klapheke’s mental state at the time of the Tamryn’s death.

Two defense witnesses, Abilene neuropsychologist Samuel Brinkman and Houston-based psychologist Mark Wernick, said Klapheke likely suffers from both post-traumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder as a result of trauma she endured as a child.

Testifying for the prosecution, Abilene psychotherapist Marc Orner said “there’s very little to disagree with” in the diagnosis by Brinkman and Wernick. But he did not agree with the conclusion that the Klapheke fell victim to a “dissociative state” before reportedly neglecting her children.

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