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West Texas airman's wife given 30 years in prison for her toddler's starvation death

A West Texas woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday for the starvation death of her 22-month-old daughter, who was found dead in her crib inside a squalid home while her father was on an Air Force deployment.

Tiffany Klapheke could have gotten life in prison after being found guilty Wednesday of injury to a child by malnutrition and dehydration in the 2012 death of her daughter, Tamryn.

The 23-year-old Klapheke did not testify at trial, but she has said her now ex-husband's deployment left her too stressed to care for the couple's three girls.

"I really wasn't a good mom the past few days," she told an Abilene police detective on Aug. 26, 2012, the day police found Tamryn dead at the family home. "I've been honest even though it makes me look horrible."

A video of the interview was played at her trial.

"I don't want you to take them away because I was lazy," Klapheke told the detective.

Investigators told the jury about the stench of urine and feces that prevailed in the Klapheke home when they arrived. Prosecutors alleged that Klapheke's two older daughters were not being fed.

According to the Abilene Reporter-News, prosecutor Joel Wilks said in his closing argument that Klapheke "turned her back," adding: "She shuts the door and she leaves. She leaves that child in pain."

Defense attorney George Parnham said Klapheke grew up in foster homes and was sexually abused. He also said she suffers from reactive attachment disorder, which is usually found in children who cannot form healthy attachments with parents or caregivers because of past neglect or abuse.

"Insanity is not an issue here," Parnham said. "We are all born into this world without a choice of the circumstances in which we are born."

The state has temporary conservatorship of the children, but their father, Air Force airman Thomas Klapheke, was granted restrictive custody.

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Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com

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