Yesterday in a packed courtroom in Macomb County, Renee King was sentenced to life in prison for the 2010 murder and sexual abuse of her 2-year-old stepdaughter Lily Furneaux-Wolfenbarger.
The toddler’s father, Jeffrey Wolfenbarger, now faces a civil suit filed on March 20 in Macomb County by the girl’s mother Lauren Furneaux on behalf of the estate of her daughter.
Birmingham attorney Henry Baskin is representing Furneaux, and has been representing Furneaux’s parents since the baby was murdered.
“What they really want to accomplish is to make parents with parenting time understand that the child is a priority,” he said in a phone interview. He said he believes Jeffrey Wolfenbarger had a responsibility to his daughter, and failed when he left her in his wife’s care.
According to the complaint, Wolfenbarger, who shared custody of his daughter, “failed to disclose the fact that his wife … was known or believed to have been frequently under the inlufence of narcotic drugs for treatment of an alleged physical problem.”
The girl died as the result of “vicious acts of brutality,” according to the complaint. During the months before the murder, the complaint states that Lauren Furneaux observed bruises and burns on her daughter when she returned from time with Jeffrey Wolfenbarger and his wife. But Wolfenbarger “assured [her] that the injuries were the product of Lily’s clumsy and rambunctious behavior, and that each injury had an innocent explanation.
“The deficient and negligent parenting of Defendant Wolfenbarger contributed to the death of the child, and he was complicit in the abuse and neglect which resulted in severe torture to the child and culminated in her death.”
Baskin claims that Wolfenbarger should have known that his wife was not capable or competent to care for the girl, and that she was “violent [and] dangerous.”
“Negligence and forgetfulness have nothing to do with it,” Baskin said. “I don’t care what this guy says. I’m sending a message that he had a duty and an obligation to put the child in a safe place. And he did not do that.”
Baskin said there will likely be other named defendants in the case, Lauren Furneaux v. Jeffrey A. Wolfenbarger, Renee King, John Doe and Mary Roe. Baskin said he does not believe Wolfenbarger has yet retained an attorney in the civil case.