Updated: Step mother charged in death of New Haven girl
Mitch Hotts (The Voice/Macomb)
King sobbed through much of Tuesday’s proceedings. Magistrate Joe Plawecki denied bond for the New Haven resident.
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Accused killer Renee King on Tuesday begged a magistrate to be allowed to attend the funeral service scheduled today for the 2-year-old stepdaughter she is accused of sexually assaulting and beating to death.
“I swear to God on my life I didn’t do this,” a sobbing King said. “I just want to be able to see my husband and my kids and be with them through this hard time (today) for my stepdaughter’s burial. I’m accused of doing something I never would have done.”
Instead, 42nd District Court Magistrate Joseph Plawecki ordered the 28-year-old woman to be held in the Macomb County Jail without bond at Tuesday’s arraignment proceedings.
King is accused in the blunt force trauma homicide of her stepdaughter, Lily Furneaux-Wolfenbarger, whose body was found unresponsive Saturday afternoon in the New Haven home King shares with her husband, Lily’s father.
King faces charges of felony murder, which is punishable by life in prison upon conviction; first-degree child abuse, a 15-year felony; and first-degree criminal sexual conduct penetration with injuries involving a child below the age of 13, a life felony that carries a minimum of 25 years in prison.
According to police and prosecutors, King was alone with the child in the house on Apple Blossom Court in the Meadowcreek Mobile Home Community near 27 Mile and Gratiot when the incident occurred.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, who attended the arraignment hearing along with Assistant Prosecutor William Cataldo, the chief of the homicide division, declined to detail some of the allegations out of respect for the family because Lily’s funeral is being held today in Lapeer.
An autopsy conducted by Macomb County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz determined the girl died of multiple severe blunt force traumas to the head, and also had suffered vaginal tearing from being raped with an object prior to her death, authorities said.
Outside of court, Smith explained why he objected to the suspect being allowed to attend the funeral even under police guard or on a tether.
“She is charged with murdering this child,” Smith said. “The last thing we’re going to do is let someone accused of murdering anyone, let alone a 2-year-old, go to that funeral. It’s not going to happen.”
New Haven police Chief Michael Henry said officers were called to the home shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday when King reported her stepdaughter was unconscious. Dispatchers provided CPR instructions over the phone to King, he said.
King has told police and relatives that she dropped the 2-year-old girl while in the shower, but investigators said there was evidence found at the home that did not mesh with her statements. They declined to be more specific.
“Unfortunately, the only ones there in the house were the defendant and this child,” Smith said. “The evidence certainly speaks to what we think happened.”
Investigators said several objects were turned over to the Michigan State Police for forensic analysis.
At her arraignment, King was asked if she had prior arrests and she told the court she had been arrested in the past for retail fraud and also had once fought with her mother.
King is married to the victim’s father, Jeffrey Wolfenbarger, 27, who owns a painting company. She has three children of her own, but neither her kids nor her husband were home when the incident occurred on Saturday.
She also has three children from a previous relationship.
Her relationship with Wolfenbarger appears to be stormy.
The two met while both were attending L’Anse Creuse High School-North in Macomb Township and married in the summer of 2008 — two months after Lily was born.
Macomb County Circuit Court online records show Wolfenbarger filed for divorce in October. Around the same time, King filed a personal protection order against her husband, but she had the request dismissed a few weeks later.
Lily lived with her biological mother, Lauren Furneaux, in Furneaux’s parents’ home in Lapeer. Lauren Furneaux shared joint custody of the girl with Wolfenbarger. The two never married when Lily was born in May of 2008.
On Monday, Wolfenbarger told The Macomb Daily that his wife’s version of the events was she was taking a shower with the girl and fell on Lily when her knee “gave out.” He said King had previously sought medical treatment because her arm and leg had temporarily become numb.
He said his wife became hysterical when the child did not wake up and splashed her face with water in an attempt to revive the girl.
“I know Renee would never hurt any of her kids,” he said.
Wolfenbarger said he was at work when he received a phone call from police telling him that his wife and daughter were at Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center.
Lauren Furneaux’s family over the weekend said Lily resisted making the 30-minute drive from Lapeer to her father’s home in New Haven. She often returned with bruises on her body, but Wolfenbarger said any marks were the result of typical kids playing.
“It’s always been a battle between Lauren’s parents and my side of the family,” he said.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lapeer.
King’s preliminary exam will be held at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 6.