KLAPHEKE CASE: Recommendation on Dyess airman's fate to be submitted within 10 days
ABILENE, Texas - The investigating officer who oversaw Monday's military hearing of an Abilene-based airman charged for failing to report neglect before a toddler died will submit a recommendation to 7th Bomb Wing Commanding Officer Col. Glen D. VanHerck within the next 10 days.
Christopher Perez, 23, is on trial in connection with the death of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke. Perez is charged by the military with failure to report child abuse or neglect, adultery, and child endangerment.
VanHerck can decide whether to dismiss some or all of the charges against Perez. If Perez is formally charged, he could either face a special court-martial under VanHerck or a general court-martial under Gen. Robin Rand.
Tamryn Klapheke's mother, Tiffany, is charged with three counts of injury to a child. Two other siblings are now in foster care. Tiffany Klapheke remains jailed on $500,000 bond.
During Monday's hearing, Abilene Police Detective Eric Vickers testified that he first noticed a foul smell when responding to the girl's death in late August.
"It was so strong it took my breath away at first," Vickers said.
The military base home where the children lived had human and cat feces everywhere. Vickers said Tamryn's mattress was soaked with urine.
Vickers' testimony also indicated that Christopher Perez and Tiffany Klapheke met through an online personal ad that she posted. After meeting in July, Vickers said the two started sending text messages via cell phone.
APD obtaineda warrant, which allowed access to the text messages.
Through those text messages, Vickers said Tiffany admitted to getting pregnant with Perez's baby. She also admitted aborting the pregnancy, he said.
Vickers indicated Thomas Klapheke, Tiffany's husband, knew Perez was living with Tiffany at their home on Dyess Air Force Base. Thomas returned to the U.S. after Tamryn's death and filed for divorce October 8.
While Perez has a wife and child in Peru, Vickers said Perez indicated he moved in with Tiffany to save money, while trying to get his wife and child to the United States.
Vickers said Perez would play with Klapheke's three children when he got home from work because Tiffany complained she was tired and stressed.
Vickers testimony also seemed to indicate neglect from the young mother may have been obvious.
During questioning with police, Perez indicated he noticed Tiffany would lock Tatum and Tamryn in their room, Vickers said. She supposedly said they didn't get along and she was trying to make them bond.
In the days leading up to Tamryn's death, Perez told police she locked them in the room for a few days.
Vickers said Tiffany Klapheke told him she had been sexually assaulted as a child, and for that reason she refused to let any man change her children's diapers.
Additionally, Klapheke told Vickers that she suffered from insomnia, and for that reason she went out with her friends to eat, while Perez was at home unable to see the children who were locked in.
Perez's defense claimed he had very little access to the children and didn't want to criticize the way another parent raised their children. In texting, he referred to the three as his stepchildren.
The day 22-month-old Tamryn was discovered dead, Perez went missing. Security at Dyess Air Force Base locked the entire base down to find him. He was found near the gate and was apparently trying to take food off-base with another airman.
Authorities interviewed that other airman. As they were driving, that airman said Perez told him: "I am the guy they are looking for."
Special Agent Ray Soto of the Dyess AFB Office of Special Investigations was the second witness called on Monday.
Soto said he arrived at the home to find Tiffany Klapheke cradling Tamryn's deceased body.
The stench from the home could be smelled from up to 10 feet away.
Regarding Tamryn's two siblings, Soto said 3-year-old Taberlee was very dirty, walked with limp and couldn't stand straight. Tatum, who was six months old at the time, had bruising under her eye. Soto said Tiffany claimed she planned on bathing the three kids before Tamryn died.
Soto confirmed Vickers' account of feces throughout the home.
Furthermore, Soto said the pantry and refrigerator in the home were stocked full of food. Soto said Perez told him Taberlee would ask for food and other items. He gave her what she asked for, even though that upset their mother.
Tiffany Klapheke accused Perez of spoiling the girl.