ABILENE, Texas - Accused mom Tiffany Klapheke started hyperventilating, crying and yelling – and had to be escorted from the courtroom – as the second autopsy photo of her toddler daughter Tamryn was shown in court Friday afternoon.
When she returned to court after her outburst, the 23-year-old Klapheke wasn't allowed to look at devices being used in the room – such as the laptop on her table – to display the photos.
Klapheke, 23, is on trial for allegedly failing to provide adequate food, water and medical attention to 22-month-old Tamryn before she died. The child's two young siblings were also found in deteriorating conditions but ultimately survived.
Jurors on Thursday and Friday watched Klapheke's nearly 7-hour interview with police – and other prosecution witnesses – before starting to take a look at autopsy photos Friday afternoon.
The photo that apparently upset Klapheke was the second of what appeared to be up to 20 photos.
Dr. Marc Krouse, chief deputy medical examiner for Tarrant County, said toddler Tamryn was dead six to 16 hours before she was observed at Abilene Regional Medical Center after Klapheke found her unresponsive in her Dyess Air Force Base home.
Tamryn died in late August 2012.
Krouse said fecal matter was found in Tamryn's stomach and chemical burns – the result of feces – were found on her body. The toddler died face down, he said.
In addition, Krouse said a look at one of Tamryn's bones showed 15 "Harris lines," which show up when the bone is trying to recover after not growing for a while. It is the result of extreme stress and can be caused by starvation. The 15 "Harris lines," Krouse said, are from a year time frame.
Meanwhile, while being questioned after Tamryn died from what authorities have called severe neglect, Klapheke sobbed and hugged her then live-in boyfriend, ultimately telling him "it's my fault."
In the video, after former Dyess Air Force Base airman Christopher Perez entered the interview room, Perez repeatedly said he was sorry what happened to Klapheke.
Perez told Klapheke, "I know you wouldn't do anything to harm anyone."
After calling Perez her "best friend" before he arrived in the police interview room, Klapheke said she realized Tamryn's purple feet were a problem four days before her death.
"I just didn't want to be around her...I was so ashamed," Klapheke said.
But, Klapheke added, "I didn't think it was as bad as it was."
Klapheke's nearly 7-hour police interview showed Klapheke asking to talk to Perez, who a military judge found guilty of three specifications of child endangerment and one specification of adultery.
The military judge recently sentenced Perez, a former senior airman who was stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, to three years confinement – along with calling for his dishonorable discharge from the Air Force – for his role in Tamryn's death.
Tamryn's death occurred at the Klapheke home on Dyess Air Force Base in August 2012.
"I needed a break," Klapheke said, when asked by another police detective "did you intentionally leave them in their room?"
On the video, Klapheke also said:
*- "I wasn't feeding her as much as I should have been."
*- "Even if I get in trouble, she [Tamryn] deserves me to tell the truth."
*- "She [Tamryn] deserves for me to do so much better – I owe that to her."
*- "I owe it to her [Tamryn] to be a good mom to her sisters."
*- "I didn't intend for this to happen."
At the end of the video, Klapheke is arrested – at about 1 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2012.
While Klapheke was read her rights at the beginning of the videotaped interview, Klapheke's defense attorney George Parnham directed questions to point out Klapheke wasn't told her statements were video/audio recorded.
Klapheke was charged with first-degree felony injury to a child. If convicted, the jury could sentence her anywhere from five to 99 years – or life – in prison.
The six-man, six-woman jury began watching the final two hours of Klapheke's interview with police at 9 a.m. Friday and finished watching the video around 11 a.m. Friday. Testimony continued Friday afternoon.
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