Tamryn Klapheke died of neglect. ()
A court-martial begins Tuesday for a Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, senior airman accused of failing to report the neglect of a toddler who died last year at her family’s base home.
Senior Airman Christopher Perez is charged with dereliction of duty, child endangerment and adultery. Perez was living at the home of Tiffany Klapheke and her husband, Senior Airman Thomas Klapheke, when the toddler died in August 2012.
Senior Airman Klapheke had deployed about two months earlier. Perez and Tiffany Klapheke were involved in a sexual relationship, according to testimony from Perez’s Article 32 hearing.
Twenty-two-month-old Tamryn Klapheke died from malnutrition and dehydration, a preliminary autopsy showed. The Klaphekes’ two other children, ages 3 and 6 months, also showed signs of neglect but survived. They are now in the care of family.
Perez told authorities Tiffany Klapheke would lock her children in a bedroom for days but he did not believe it was his place to interfere, according to Article 32 testimony.
Tiffany Klapheke has been charged in the girl’s death. Her trial is set to begin early next year in Taylor County, Texas. Tiffany Klapheke recently fired her court-appointed attorney and hired new lawyers, including George Parnam, 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.
Tamryn’s death had far-reaching consequences. The state’s Child Protective Services and the Dyess Family Advocacy Program had investigated the Klaphekes multiple times in the two years that preceded the girl’s death. CPS closed its final investigation days before Tamryn died without a required final home visit and approval from a supervisor. In addition to the case worker, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner resigned. Abilene police also launched an investigation into whether CPS workers hid or destroyed documents related to the case but have made no arrests.
Military judge Col. Donald Eller will preside over Perez’s court-martial.