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Child welfare workers resign as probe into airman's daughter's death continues

'Inappropriate relationship' between father, worker alleged

Jun. 19, 2013 - 07:18AM   |  
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LUBBOCK, TEXAS — The Texas child welfare agency under investigation for its mishandling of a toddler’s death last year has disciplined two employees after discovering one of them had “an inappropriate relationship” with the child’s father, an agency spokesman said Tuesday.

Officials were tipped in May that the relationship between Thomas Klapheke and the caseworker started after the investigation into the Aug. 28 death of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke began, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins said. The caseworker was later moved into a supervisory job.

Crimmins said two women who were investigating the case resigned. Two others not assigned to the case but who were aware of the relationship and did not report it to supervisors were reprimanded and reassigned, he said.

The agency remains under scrutiny on charges of evidence tampering for what authorities have said was lack of cooperation as investigators looked into the child’s death. That criminal investigation is ongoing.

The toddler’s mother, Tiffany Klapheke, claimed she was too stressed by her military spouse’s deployment to care for her children. She faces a charge of injury to a child.

Tiffany Klapheke remained jailed Tuesday on $500,000. Her attorney, David Thedford, who through a receptionist declined to comment Tuesday, is seeking a change of venue in the case.

Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said Tuesday he expected the evidence tampering case to be presented to a grand jury later this month.

The Abilene Reporter-News first reported the resignations and reassignments.

The toddler died in August after being found unresponsive at her Dyess Air Force Base home, and she had suffered from malnutrition, dehydration and a basic lack of care over a period of time, according to a preliminary autopsy report. The child weighed only 17.5 pounds and her body had chemical burns, indicating she had been exposed to human waste, the report said.

Her two sisters were hospitalized for severe neglect and later placed with relatives.

Since the toddler’s death, Thomas Klapheke has returned from deployment and filed for divorce.

After the toddler died, Abilene police launched a rare investigation into the local Child Protective Services office because “certain CPS supervisors” refused to cooperate with officers investigating the death, Standridge has said.

A CPS spokesman has said a caseworker investigating medical neglect allegations against Tiffany Klapheke beginning in September 2011 closed the case without the required final visit just six days before the toddler died.

The worker, who had not seen the family in about 10 months, resigned shortly after the toddler died.

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