Police focus on child abuse in New Haven girl’s death
By Mitch Hotts
For The Oakland Press
Dad says 2-year-old fell from stepmother’s arms
New Haven police on Sunday were investigating whether the “suspicious” death of a 2-year-old girl was an accident or the result of child abuse.
As relatives of Lily Furneaux-Wolfenbarger awaited word from police, they also began preparing funeral arrangements for the precocious little girl whose smile warmed their hearts.
“She was a very sweet child who loved her mom — she was everything in this world to her mom,” said Lynette Furneaux, the girl’s grandmother who resides in Lapeer.
According to police, officers were called Saturday afternoon to a home on Apple Blossom Court in the Meadowcreek
Mobile Home Community near 27 Mile and Gratiot in New Haven for an unresponsive child. The girl was rushed to a hospital but was pronounced dead.
“The cause of death has not yet been determined and right now it remains as suspicious and under investigation,” Police Chief Michael Henry said in a news release.
New Haven police Sunday afternoon indicated there would be an update on the case later in the day, but none was provided as officers continued their investigation. An officer Sunday evening said additional information would be provided today.
An autopsy was conducted Sunday but Macomb County Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Spitz said he could not comment on the manner or cause of death because it’s an ongoing investigation.
The child lived with her mother, 24-year-old Lauren Fureneaux, at Lauren’s parent’s house in Lapeer. The mother shared custody with the child’s father, Jeff Wolfenbarger, who resides in New Haven.
Relatives who did not want to be named said Lily seemed to be afraid of Renee King, Jeff’s wife, who has three children of her own. Lily sometimes came home with bruises, a family member said.
Jeff Wolfenbarger could not be reached for comment Sunday, but he told WDIV-TV (Channel 4) that he didn’t want to believe his wife could have harmed the girl. He said his wife’s version of the incident was Lily fell out of King’s arms after being bathed.
“She did what she could, she told me,” Wolfenbarger told the TV station, adding his wife splashed water on Lily’s face in an attempt to revive her.
The status of the union between Renee King and Jeff Wolfenbarger was not clear Sunday.
Macomb County Circuit Court online records show Wolfenbarger filed for a divorce or annulment on Oct. 7, but the two appear to still be living together and he referred to her as his wife.
Friends of the family said Lauren is understandably devastated by her daughter’s death.
“Lily was intelligent beyond her years,” said Elizabeth Makedonsky of Imlay City, a friend of Lauren’s, and whose children sometimes played with Lily. “She was an amazing child with a vocabulary that was quite extensive for a 2-year-old.”
The family plans to have the funeral at Lynch & Sons Funeral Directors in Lapeer. Anyone who would like to help the family pay for expenses may make a donation to a memorial fund that will be opened at the Lapeer County Bank & Trust.