Standridge: Possibility remains of others being charged in Klapheke case

Stan Standridge

ABILENE, Texas - Saturday's arrest of an ex-Child Protective Services regional director may not be the last.

On Monday, Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said additional people could be charged in connection with CPS's alleged mishandling of the case of Thomas and Tiffany Klapheke.

The Klapheke's 22-month-old daughter, Tamryn, died of what authorities concluded was severe neglect. Their other two daughters had similar symptoms but lived.

Former CPS Regional Director Martha Kiel "Bit" Whitaker's arrest Saturday on a third-degree felony tampering with physical evidence charge came after a Taylor County grand jury earlier this month – on July 17 – secretly indicted her.

Whitaker's attorney, Randy Wilson, told KTXS that Whitaker turned herself in at the Taylor County Jail immediately after returning from vacation.

"She was out of town," Wilson said. "She did not get back until Saturday. She came straight to my office, and we went and turned her in and posted her bond."

Calling her a "very strong person," Wilson said Whitaker had 33 years of experience with CPS and is "extremely well thought of here in the community."

"I think when the facts come out, you will see what happened here," Wilson said.

While no one else has been indicted, Standridge said charges could still be pursued against other CPS workers who kept information from police after Tamryn Klapheke's death.

Abilene police previously named Whitaker and former CPS supervisors Gretchen Denny and Barbara McDaniel as suspects in the investigation before handing the case over to the McLennan County District Attorney's Office.

"I can only confirm that we have asked the special prosecutor to consider charges against three CPS supervisors. We continue to work with the Taylor County Grand Jury and will work through the process," said Standridge. "We will ultimately decide along with a grand jury whether additional charges and additional persons will be sought."

Standridge said CPS officials should have cooperated with law enforcement when officials were trying to get information.

"We do not believe that happened with the Klapheke case," Standridge said. "… Those documents were not immediately given."

Noting the officials' reluctance slowed the probe into a "very serious matter," Standridge said he expects the special prosecutor in the case – Assistant McLennan County District Attorney Mark Parker – to continue to "work closely" with the Taylor County grand jury.

Whitaker and Denny were put on paid administrative leave for several months during the early stages of the investigation. While Whitaker resigned in March 2013, Denny was dismissed. Attorneys for Whitaker and Denny made motions to protect the pair from testifying in Klapheke's February trial because of the pending investigation of CPS.

McDaniel was allowed to continue with CPS in a clerical position in the Permian Basin in September 2013; however, KTXS learned earlier this year that she was once again a supervisor.

Meanwhile, Standridge said he is encouraged with the "most recent changes" at CPS and that his department has a "fantastic relationship" with CPS in recent months.

Numerous changes have been made with CPS locally since the Klapheke incident, Standridge said.

"CPS today is markedly different than CPS was in August of 2012," Standridge said.