Jeffrey Wolfenbarger, father of 2-year-old Lily Furneaux-Wolfenbarger, was sued in Michigan’s Macomb County Circuit Court last week by Lily’s mother. The suit alleges that Wolfenbarger and one Renee King were directly responsible for Lily’s death. King, who is Wolfenbarger’s wife, faces life in prison after brutally beating and sexually assaulting Lily in November of 2010. The suit claims that Wolfenbarger was complicit and culpable for Lily’s death. The suit also names a John Doe and Mary Roe as unidentified and yet-to-be-determined defendants.
Lauren Fernaux, Lily’s mother, said that the lawsuit is intended to send a message. “This was a case of continual abuse,” said her attorney. “This child didn’t live in a vacuum. People saw her. People knew.” To this end, the suit is officially seeking damages in excess of $25,000. The mother’s attorney also went on to say that the money is only one part of putting responsibility where it is due in the case.
30 year old Renee King was found guilty last month of murder, child abuse, and criminal sexual conduct. King claimed that Lily was hurt during two falls with King, though this was apparently unconvincing to the jury. She is due to be sentenced on April 10th. Prosecuters said that Lily’s inuries were so bad that they were consistent with what someone might suffer in a car crash, and that King’s motive in the assault was punishing Lily for soiling her pants.
The wrongful death suit claims that Wolfenbarger failed in his legal duty as a parent by leaving Lily in King’s care – this despite knowing that she was both violent and a regular user of narcotics. The suit also claims that Wolfenbarger regularly acquired narcotics from his wife at the time. Wolfenbarger and King are in the process of a divorce following the trial.
Wolfenbarger was arrested during a break in King’s trial – he apparently knocked down a woman while trying to attack another person. King filed a personal protection request against Wolfenbarger in October of 2010, further complicating matters. King claimed in the request that she feared for her life because Wolfenbarger had punched her in the back.
Evidence presented in the suit showed Lily with black eyes sometime before her death, as well as other bruises and burns consistent with a pattern of abuse. Wolfenbarger defended himself, saying the injuries were Lily’s fault, calling the girl’s behavior clumsy and rambunctious.
There is no word on when jury selection will begin for the wrongful death case.