The father of a murdered 2-year-old girl said he doesn’t regret trying to retaliate against the girl’s maternal uncle who gestured at him during the trial for his daughter’s murderer.
Jeffrey Wolfenbarger, 29, admitted he wasn’t in the proper frame of mind when he tried to get to Michael Furneaux in a courtroom hallway during a break for his ex-wife Renee King’s murder trial. But he said he is glad he stood up to him.
“He’s lucky I didn’t get a hold of him because I would have thrown him through the window,” Wolfenbarger said, but added, “I wasn’t in the right state of mind.”
The incident occurred Feb. 17 during the trial for King in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens. King, who was Wolfenbarger’s wife and Lily’s stepmother at the time of the fatal beating, was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and child abuse for the November 2010 death of Lily Wolfenbarger-Furneaux in Wolfenbarger and King’s New Haven mobile home. King was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Wolfenbarger knocked down a 49-year-old woman who was using a cane as he tried to get at Michael Furneaux, whomade a hand gesture at him, but was restrained by several of supporters of Lauren Furneaux of Lapeer, Lily’s mother, and courthouse sheriff’s deputies. The petite woman fell into a bench and bruised her arm.
He was charged with aggravated assault and disturbing the peace. In a plea deal, he pleaded guilty to the added charge of disorderly person, jostling, a 90-day misdemeanor. He was sentenced Wednesday to a $430 fine by Judge Linda Davis in 41B District Court in Clinton Township.
Accompanied to court by his parents Wednesday, Chester and Jane Wolfenbarger of Clinton Township, and girlfriend, Tonya Card, Wolfenbarger said he couldn’t back down.
“I just believe I had to do what I had to do,” he said. “I was under a lot of pressure.”
Lynette Furneaux, Lily’s grandmother, who attended the hearing in support of the victim, said she was shocked at Wolfenbarger’s comment but that it shows his character. She said her son “flipped off” Wolfenbarger after Wolfenbarger said to him, “Do you have a problem with me?”
She said she is not happy with the plea deal and would like to have seen a stiffer penalty.
“He did assault her,” she said.
Chester Wolfenbarger said he’s glad people quickly intervened because a physical altercation could have gotten violent.
Wolfenbarger said the pressure came from attending the trial of his murdered daughter as well as testifying.
He said he did not “prejudge” his wife at the time because, “I didn’t see anything,” he said. He said he told the truth on the stand, and that he is satisfied with the verdict.
“She’s dead to me now,” he said, referring to King.
The relationship between the families of Lily’s parents was acrimonious even before Lily’s death as Lauren Furneaux and Wolfenbarger fought over custody. The acrimony escalated.
The Furneauxes formed Justice for Lily, which has raised about $38,000 money for anti-child abuse organizations and agencies.
Card said she commends the Furneauxes for their efforts to fight child abuse but said they “won’t let it go,” as evidenced by them attending Wolfenbarger’s court hearing.
“Their case is over. Why are they here?” she said.
Lynette Furneaux said they attended to support the victim, who supported them during the trial.
“If each of us could move on with our lives, that would be wonderful,” she said.
Wolfenbarger, who owns a painting company and said he is moving to Davison, said he wants to resume his life in peace.
But the contact won’t end soon since Lily Furneaux’s estate, represented by Lauren Furneaux, in March sued Wolfenbarger, King and anyone else who may have known about claimed abuse of Lily for failing to stop it. The case is assigned to circuit Judge Peter J. Maceroni.