Tamryn Klapheke died of neglect. ()
ABILENE, TEXAS — The stench inside the Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, home where a toddler was found unresponsive in August 2012 was so overwhelming that one first responder said he had to throw out his tainted uniform afterward.
Master Sgt. Matthew Jones of the 7th Security Forces Squadron was the first witness to testify in the court-martial of a senior airman charged with dereliction of duty, child endangerment and adultery.
Senior Airman Christopher Perez is accused of failing to report the neglect of 22-month-old Tamryn Klapheke, who was pronounced dead at an Abilene hospital. An autopsy stated she had gone weeks without a diaper change and died from neglect.
The child’s mother, Tiffany Klapheke, has been charged in the girl’s death. Perez and Tiffany Klapheke were living together while her husband, another Dyess senior airman, was deployed. Perez is accused of having an affair with the woman. Two other children in the home, ages 3 and six months, also showed signs of neglect.
Perez has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The court-martial, which began Tuesday, is being heard by military judge Col. Donald Eller.
The defense argued in opening statements that the children’s mother — and not Perez — was responsible for them. The defense also suggested Perez did not live at the home because he did not have a key.
But in a statement to Child Protective Services, Perez had said Tiffany Klapheke let him stay at the home for free in exchange for taking care of her three daughters.
The defense tried unsuccessfully to toss the statement out of evidence.
Jones, the security forces member, said he found the Klapheke home in disarray when he responded to the 911 call. “The smell was overpowering.”
He testified he washed his uniform three times before throwing it out.
The case continued Thursday afternoon.
Tiffany Klapheke is set to stand trial in January.
Christopher Collins reports for Abilene Reporter-News. Air Force Times staff writer Kristin Davis contributed.