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Ex-Abilene CPS worker found guilty of crime connected to toddler's death

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - A former Abilene CPS worker implicated in a case that led to the death of 1 child and severe neglect of  2 others has been found guilty

Gretchen Denny, 44, was convicted of a Tampering with Evidence charge following a days-long trial that ended when the jury returned the 'guilty' verdict Wednesday afternoon. 

She will receive her punishment for the crime after a pre-sentencing investigation, which takes around 45 days to complete.

Allegations against Denny were centered around a photograph police took of 22-month-old Tamaryn Klapheke when they found her deceased inside a home on Dyess Air Force Base in 2012.

After the photo was sent to Child Protective Services, a worker was sent to the home to investigate, removed 2 other children from the residence, and took them to the hospital, where medical professionals uncovered bruising and strange marks on both children.

The CPS worker said the marks matched injuries present in the picture of the dead child, which was shown to her to prepare her to go into the Klapheke home.

When the medical professionals asked to see the picture to help them treat the 2 surviving children, the CPS worker was unable to get the picture from her supervisors at CPS and had to go through the police department, even though, as an APD detective said on the stand, "time was of the essence".

The detective claimed this "surprised" him because usually they share information. 

Witnesses testifying on behalf of CPS said withholding the photograph was not about a coverup, it was about protecting the chain of custody because they did not want to compromise a law enforcement investigation.

Mother Tiffany Klapheke was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February of 2014 on charges connected to the death of Tamryn and the abuse of her other two children.

Klapheke's then-boyfriend, Senior Airman Perez was sentenced to three years of confinement for adultery and three counts of child endangerment.

Another CPS worker, Supervisor Martha 'Bit' Whitaker, is also charged with Tampering with Evidence in connection to the Klapheke case, though her trial date has not been set. 

Court documents state Whitaker "did intentionally and knowingly alter or conceal . . . Child Protective Services documents detailing the investigation of the Klapheke children and/or medical records of the Klapheke children and/or Dyess Family Advocacy office records of the Klapheke children, with intent to impair its availability as evidence in the investigation".

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