ABILENE, Texas - Abilene's police chief says he hopes – by next month – a grand jury will be able to consider the alleged mishandling of a highly publicized 2012 child death case by a state child welfare agency.
State Child Protective Services is under fire for how some of its workers handled the case before and after 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke died from severe neglect in August 2012. Her mother, Tiffany, was recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role.
Regarding a grand jury date for the CPS investigation, Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge – whose agency investigated the death of the malnourished toddler – said he "thought we had a date lined up in April."
However, the schedule of the special prosecutor from McClennan County "conflicted with the three dates of grand jury in Taylor County," Standridge said in an email Monday.
Abel Reyna is district attorney in McClennan County.
"I am hoping he (Reyna) is now shooting for May, but I have not heard definitively," Standridge said.
Reyna said his office is continuing to investigate and review the CPS case; however, he declined to disclose when the case would be presented to a Taylor County grand jury.
"I do not want to comment on the specific date this matter may be presented to the grand jury," Reyna said in an email Monday.
Judge Lee Hamilton of the 104th District Court in Taylor County issued the order appointing the McLennan County District Attorney's Office (Waco) as special prosecutor.
Ex-Commissioner Howard Baldwin, who oversaw the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services when the Abilene police probe into the alleged mishandling of the Klapheke case began, announced his resignation in November 2012 – just two months after the death of Tamryn Klapheke.
Tamryn reportedly died six days after CPS closed an investigation of medical neglect on the Klapheke family – without the mandatory final visit of the home. During Tiffany Klapheke's trial, Tiffany admitted in a taped police interview that she had failed to feed Tamryn as often as she should have and had not changed Tamryn's diaper for several days.
While Abilene police named former CPS supervisors Gretchen Denny, Bit Whitaker and Barbara McDaniel as suspects in the investigation before police handed the case over to the McClennan County DA's Office, it is unclear which names will be submitted to grand jury.
Whitaker and Denny were put on paid administrative leave for several months during the early stages of the investigation. Whitaker later resigned and 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 Permain Basin in September 2013; however, KTXS learned Monday that she is once again a supervisor.
According to a Patrick Crimmins, a Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman, McDaniel is now a supervisor in Midland "in the conservatorship program and supervises a varying number of caseworkers." He said the position is a lateral move compared to the supervisory position she held prior to being put on administrative leave.
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