Jurors are watching a 6-hour, 44-minute, Aug. 28, 2012 police interview with Tiffany Klapheke after she came home and found her toddler daughter unresponsive from what authorities have said was severe neglect. They will finish watching the video at 9 a.m. Friday.
Klapheke, 23, is accused of neglecting and failing to feed her daughters to the point where one of them – 22-month-old Tamryn – died. The child’s two young siblings were found in deteriorating conditions but ultimately survived.
"I didn't believe what I was seeing," Klapheke said during the interview about when she noticed Tamryn wasn't responding, the child's lips purple.
Later in the interview, Klapheke told police: "I don't want you to take them away because I was lazy," referring to her two other daughters who survived the alleged neglect.
In the video, Klapheke could be seen crying and hyperventilating when police first started talking to her. At one point, she offered to take a lie detector test to prove she was being honest about the events of the day leading up to her discovery of Tamryn's death. During the interview, she also broke into tears when police began asking her about the state she found Tamryn in.
Meanwhile, Klapheke told police she had asked for a divorce from her now ex-husband, Thomas, when she was driving him to the airport for his summer deployment to Oman. Later, she said, the two decided to try to work things out, but that she had wanted a divorce because she felt neglected and alone.
Klapheke said she was overwhelmed caring for the three children alone. According to Klapheke’s attorneys, Thomas voluntarily deployed. He filed for divorce after Tamryn's death.
When asked about the chemical burns on Tamryn's body, Klapheke told Det. Eric Vickers, who conducted the interview, "I wouldn't hurt her. I wouldn't put her in harm's way."
Klapheke said she didn’t understand how Tamryn died, but speculated that she feared Tamryn may have choked on cereal at some point.
"I've been honest even though it makes me look horrible. I've told you everything," Klapheke told the detective.
Klapheke said she was overwhelmed.
"I really wasn't a good mom the past few days," Klapheke said, repeatedly insisting to see her surviving children during the 2012 interview.
Initially, Klapheke said she didn’t need a lawyer. Then, after more than one hour of questioning, she asked, “I can't think straight right now...do I need a lawyer?"
The video is being played as part of the second day of testimony in the Klapheke trial.
Klapheke was arrested in August 2012 and 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 courtroom broke for lunch early at 11 a.m. so work can be done on the quality of the interview video.
Jurors returned at 1 p.m. to continue watching the video.
Jurors were shown more than 170 photos from inside the Dyess Air Force Base home where Tiffany Klapheke's 22-month-old daughter Tamryn died from what officials have called severe neglect.
The photos, presented by Abilene Police Department Officer Randall Farmer, showed food items, toys and stains on both the carpets and mattresses of Tamryn and Klapheke's two other young daughters. Witnesses said the mattress stains appeared to be human waste.
In addition, the photos showed a well-stocked kitchen, despite the autopsy indicating the toddler died of malnutrition and dehydration.
Klapheke, 23, is accused of neglecting and failing to feed her daughters to the point where one of them – Tamryn – ultimately died. She was arrested in August 2012 and 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.
Klapheke's then-husband, Thomas, was deployed at the time of Tamryn's death.
Farmer was one of six witnesses that prosecutors called to the stand on Wednesday. Witnesses included five Abilene police officers and a now-retired Dyess Air Force Base sergeant who said the stench inside Klapheke's home was terrible when officials arrived.
“The smell, it hit you in the face like a tennis racket. It was horrible,” said Matthew Jones, a former master sergeant at Dyess Air Force Base who was the first person inside the Klapheke home after Tiffany Klapheke called 911 on Aug. 28, 2012 to report Tamryn was unresponsive.