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Dyess airman's wife faces child neglect charges

Sep. 1, 2012 - 09:25AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 1, 2012 - 09:25AM  |  
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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas woman who claims her military husband's deployment overseas left her too stressed to care for their three young children, one of whom died, remained jailed Friday in connection with their alleged neglect.

Tiffany Nicole Klapheke is charged with three felony counts of injury to a child in connection with her 22-month-old daughter's death and the severe neglect of her two other daughters, ages 6 months and 3 years, Abilene police said.

Klapheke, 21, remained in the Taylor County Jail in Abilene with bonds totaling $500,000. She does not yet have an attorney, according to jail records.

Her toddler suffered from dehydration and malnutrition from a lack of basic care over a period of time, according to the preliminary autopsy report from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office in Fort Worth. The report also shows that the toddler weighed only 17˝ pounds and her body had chemical burns, indicating the child was exposed to human waste. The toddler died at an Abilene hospital after being found unresponsive at her Dyess Air Force Base home Tuesday.

The woman's two other daughters were treated for severe neglect at a children's hospital in Fort Worth, about 150 miles east of Abilene. They were to be taken out of intensive care soon, Abilene police said.

Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman for the state Department of Family and Protective Services, said her office has custody of the two girls. Meisner declined to discuss whether Klapheke had a prior history with the agency. Her office is talking to relatives as part of its 30-day investigation to determine the best placement for the children, she said.

In an interview from jail, Klapheke told Abilene's KTAB-TV that she should have been a good mother and taken them to the doctor, but "I didn't put them first anymore."

Klapheke, who moved with her husband to Texas a couple of years ago from Lexington, Ky., said none of her relatives live in the area. She also said she tried committing suicide three weeks ago but a friend stopped her.

"I'm so just stressed out and depressed, and I just need help taking care of them, and I don't have any help," she told the station.

Klapheke recalled her impatience over her children's potty training, saying she left her toddler in the crib in her own urine for nearly a week.

"I just got tired of always changing the sheets, so it was on there a little bit longer than it should have been," she said about her deceased daughter's exposure to human waste.

"I made a horrible, horrible mistake that I'm going to pay for for the rest of my life," she said.

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