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Airman charged in Dyess toddler death

Oct. 20, 2012 - 11:02AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 20, 2012 - 11:02AM  |  
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ABILENE, Texas — The Air Force released a statement saying military charges of child endangerment, failure to report child abuse and adultery "in relation to the case of Tiffany Klapheke" have been filed against Senior Airman Christopher Perez, who is stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene.

No details were provided in the statement, first given to the Abilene Reporter-News. A base spokeswoman didn't return an email Friday night seeking details.

Also on Friday, Texas Child Protective Services placed three employees on leave Friday in the wake of the death of a nearly 2-year-old Abilene girl whose mother claims she was too stressed by her husband's deployment to care for her children.

The workers — a regional director, an investigation supervisor and a caseworker — were cited in a search warrant affidavit earlier this week as being suspected of tampering with evidence. But no charges have been filed against them.

Memos released by the agency late Friday show that top CPS officials told the three employees that they were on "emergency leave" pending the results of an Abilene police investigation into the Aug. 28 death of Tamryn Klapheke.

The 22-month-old girl's mother, Tiffany Nicole Klapheke, faces three felony charges of injury to child. The child had been found unresponsive at her home at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene.

After her arrest, Klapheke said her husband's deployment made her too stressed to take care of their three young children. Her husband filed for divorce last week.

Police launched a rare investigation of the Texas child protection agency after the girl died at an Abilene hospital. Abilene police Chief Stan Standridge has said his department began investigating the local CPS office after "certain CPS supervisors" refused to cooperate with officers investigating the death.

The child weighed only 17.5 pounds and her body had chemical burns, indicating she had been exposed to human waste, according to a preliminary autopsy report. The report said Tamryn suffered dehydration and malnutrition from a lack of basic care over a period of time.

Agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins had said the CPS caseworker assigned to investigate allegations of medical neglect against Klapheke had closed the case soon after being promoted to supervisor and just six days before Tamryn died. In doing so, the employee violated CPS guidelines that require a final face-to-face visit and someone else to sign off on the closure, he said.

Klapheke remained jailed Friday in lieu of $500,000 bond. Jail records did not list an attorney for her.

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