ABILENE, Texas - Abilene Child Protective Services Program Director Bit Whitaker, who was put on paid leave following an Abilene police investigation into the death of a toddler at Dyess Air Force Base, resigned Wednesday.
Whitaker and two other employees, Investigation Supervisor Barbara McDaniel and ex-Program Director Gretchen Denny, were placed on leave after Abilene police said they suspected them of tampering with evidence in the death of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke.
Tamryn was found unresponsive in her Dyess home August 28 after her mother, 22-year-old Tiffany Klapheke, called 911. A preliminary autopsy showed Tamryn was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Klapheke is in the Taylor County Jail on three felony child injury charges and on bond totaling $500,000.
Abilene police conducted a joint investigation into the child's death with CPS. According to Department of Family and Protective Services Spokesman Patrick Crimmins, CPS Caseworker Claudia Gonzales closed an 11-month investigation into the Klapheke home just six days before Tamryn died and without a final visit.
During the joint investigation, police said they became suspicious of Whitaker, McDaniel and Denny since other CPS employees told police they were instructed to not cooperate with the investigation.
As of Thursday, McDaniel and Denny remain on leave.
A fourth employee, Geneva Schroeder from the Wichita Falls office, returned to work Wednesday.
Crimmins provided KTXS with Whitaker's resignation e-mail:
"All Region 2/9 CPS Staff,
After much soul searching and prayer I have made the decision to retire from CPS. Although this has not been an easy decision, it is my love for CPS and my commitment to our mission that has led me in this direction. CPS has been my only job for the last 33 years. I came to CPS as a student intern while earning my bachelor's degree in social work and I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to make CPS my career. Over the years it has become much more then a career, it has become who I am. As we always say in Region 2/9 we are a family and we all know how hard it is leave family.
Our number one priority in Region 2/9 has always been what is best for children and keeping them safe. I have no doubt that each of you will continue to keep this goal at the forefront in your practice and will do your very best to accomplish our mission of keeping Children First: Protected and Connected. Never doubt the positive impact you can have on the lives of children and their families, every day you are changing their world for the better. I am excited about your future and mine, I am expecting great things for all of us.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to have worked along side you, to share my passion for our work with you and to have been your leader. I truly believe the CPS staff in Region 2/9 are the best and the traditions of hard work and professionalism will continue. There are no words to express the gratitude I feel for for your outstanding service, your compassion and your support. Protecting children is a noble profession, be proud to say, "I work for CPS".
Wishing each of you the very best,