Lily Lynette Furneaux-Wolfenbarger was two and a half years old when her life was cut short while in the care of her stepmother on November 20th 2010. Her stepmother, Renee King, was found GUILTY on February 27, 2012, of all three charges.
Since Lily’s tragic death her mother, Lauren Furneaux, has started an organization, Justice For Lily, that raises money for child abuse awareness programs. Justice For Lily will raise money so other children and families won’t have to go through this terrible ordeal.
Wolfenbarger and Furneaux never married: Theirs was a summer romance that lasted only a few months in 2007, after a chance meeting in a campground near Lapeer.
“He said all the right things and I believed him,” said Furneaux, a churchgoing Catholic who dreaded telling her parents she was pregnant.
A few months later, the couple split up. By the first custody hearing in July 2008, when Lily was 3 months old, Wolfenbarger had married King, a woman he’d known since high school.
Lapeer Circuit Judge Michael Higgins made it clear that he believed in joint custody and intended to award it.
“I believe in it too,” said Sally Ann Miller, the attorney who represented Furneaux in a second hearing in October 2008. “But in this case, the child was too young, we had two experts that said so, (the parents) didn’t get along and lived an hour apart. She spent every moment with the child. He left her with his parents.”
Higgins called Furneaux “obsessed” with her daughter and rebuked her for calling the father’s home, objected to her interest in sole custody and suggested she drop out of Central Michigan University, according to transcripts.
“You should have adopted a baby without a dad, that’s what you should have done,” Higgins said. “You had a baby with this man. And you’re devastated?”
“I’m sorry but that’s too bad. Get used to it,” the judge said, referring to joint custody.
Uncomfortable with the joint custody arrangement from the start, Furneaux and her parents, Frederick “Chico” and Lynette Furneaux, became suspicious in spring 2010 that Lily was being physically abused.
A mark on Lily’s neck that looked like a burn and a black eye were explained away by King and Wolfenbarger.
The family hired an investigator, documented Lily’s bruises and remained in contact with the lawyer, at one point asking Miller: “When will we have enough evidence? When she’s lying in a casket?”
Her brush with the judicial system had been painful, and she believed her lawyer’s concerns that the judge might retaliate, might even take away Lily, if she couldn’t substantiate charges.
“I wanted to call the authorities,” said Furneaux. “I was afraid that I would lose my daughter.”
Our Worst Fear
Lily died Nov. 20, 2010, a few hours after her mother handed her to her father, Jeffrey Wolfenbarger, in a restaurant parking lot in Capac.
A few hours after that, Lily was dead, in the living room of her father’s trailer in New Haven. Lily’s stepmother, Renee King, was described as kneeling by her, hysterical.
King was found GUILTY on February 27, 2012, of all three charges and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
Lily will live in our hearts, to infinity and beyond.