Ex-CPS regional director arrested in connection with Klapheke case

ABILENE, Texas - An ex-Child Protective Services regional director was arrested Saturday on a tampering with physical evidence charge in connection with her former agency's alleged mishandling of a highly publicized 2012 child death case.

Martha Kiel "Bit" Whitaker, 58, of Abilene has been charged for a third-degree felony offense that allegedly occurred on Aug. 29, 2012, jail records show. Her bond was set at $1,000. She has been released. A third-degree felony charge carries a potential sentence of two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Details surrounding her arrest remained sketchy Sunday, but Whitaker was a CPS regional director when 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke died from severe neglect in August 2012.

Tamryn's mother, Tiffany, in February was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role. She found Tamryn not responsive in her Dyess Air Force Base home on Aug. 28, 2012, records show.

Whitaker retired from the agency in March 2013.

Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge, whose agency investigated the Klapheke case, declined comment Sunday.

"We will not offer comment today, but I anticipate a news conference at 11:30 tomorrow (Monday) morning to discuss several things," Standridge said in an email to KTXS.

The special prosecutor in the case – Assistant McLennan County District Attorney Mark Parker  – confirmed Friday that he had recently taken the case to a Taylor County grand jury. District 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.

The case has been somewhat of a black eye for CPS.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins on Monday said his agency – which is over CPS – had no comment on Whitaker's arrest other than to note Whitaker was a CPS regional director before she retired in March 2013.

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 Whitaker and former CPS supervisors Gretchen Denny and Barbara McDaniel as suspects in the investigation before police handed the case over to the McLennan County DA's Office, it hasn't been made public which names were recently submitted to the grand jury.

Whitaker and Denny were put on paid administrative leave for several months during the early stages of the investigation. While Whitaker resigned, 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.

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