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Originally published September 16 2015

CPS worker charged with felony evidence tampering after child starved to death

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) A one-time supervisor for Texas Child Protective Services who was arrested for tampering with evidence in connection with a much-publicized 2012 case in Abilene involving the death of a child from dehydration and starvation is set to go on trial, as reported by local media.

KTXS 12 News in Abilene reported recently that the accused, Martha Kiel "Bit" Whitaker, ex-regional director for Child Protective Services, appeared in a Taylor County, Texas, court for a pre-trial hearing.

At the time of her arrest on the felony charge in July 2014, Breitbart Texas reported that Whitaker faced a potential $10,000 fine and two years in jail if convicted.

In its report, KTXS noted that Whitaker was the CPS supervisor when 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke died from abuse in August 2012. The child's mother, Tiffany Klapheke, has already been convicted of causing her child injury and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Court records show that Tiffany was accused of failing to feed her three daughters; Tamryn was the middle child. At the time, the family was living on Dyess Air Force Base. The report further noted that the CPS investigation into the Klapheke family was closed just six months before Tamryn's death. Whitaker retired in 2013.

Changing evidence to hide neglect

Speaking to KTXS, Scott Romano, Tiffany's stepfather, said he was "happy to see that somebody else is gonna start taking some blame," in reference to Whitaker's arrest. "... I don't believe it was all Tiffany's fault."

"I had made a comment before that I'll be surprised if any other people are prosecuted for this because I think there's a whole bunch of people that could have prevented it and didn't," Romano added.

"She's (Tiffany) taken responsibility and she knows what she did was wrong, but I also think there was other people that could have prevented it," Romano told the station. "It's like how many people need to walk by and turn their head the other way?"

Also in 2012, Texas Watchdog reported that the state CPS commissioner at the time, Harold Baldwin, resigned amid the investigation into Tamryn's death.

The site further noted:

Baldwin's boss, Kyle Janek, executive commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services, would say only that Baldwin was leaving to pursue other interests and thanked him for his many years of public service...

The bodies of Tamryn and her sisters, who were six months and three years old at the time, were found August 28, 2012, in the family's home, where they had all been alone and without food and water for as long as one week, according to police.

Far from the only case

Moreover, the discovery of Tamryn's body came just six days after Claudia Gonzalez, a CPS caseworker, closed the third investigation of neglect by the family, the Houston Chronicle reported. The caseworker had not visited the children nor had she received the necessary supervisor's permission and signature to close the case. She has since resigned.

At the time of the death, Abilene Police also suspected that former program director Gretchen Denny and CPS supervisor Barbara McDaniel, who has also been reprimanded by CPS, tampered with evidence in the case.

Tamryn's case was far from being the only one neglected by CPS. As the Chronicle reported, hers was one of hundreds of backlogged and delinquent protective services cases across the state that have languished without ever being resolved or investigated. Another child, Julia Martin of Houston, also died in August 2012 after her case sat on a CPS worker's desk for months.

Born in 2009 with a heart defect, CPS workers who were called to investigate charges of neglect eventually concluded that her ailment - not neglect - was responsible for her poor condition.

"Houston police officers found Julia dead on Aug. 5, lying sideways across the mattress, wearing only a diaper. She had medical sensors attached to her right arm, right side and left leg and she was fed through a tube," the Chronicle reported.

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