Grandparents hope to take custody of West Mifflin baby found in Tennessee
The paternal grandparents of the 8-week-old boy from West Mifflin who was found Tuesday in Tennessee after a five-day search said Thursday their son and his wife didn’t know they were wanted on criminal charges for abusing their baby.
“They thought they were in their rights as parents to get away,” Eric Klingensmith said of his son, Daemon, and Daemon’s wife, Jeannette Funnen.
On Sept. 26, the couple left UPMC Children’s Hospital with their son, Ambrose Klingensmith.
“We saw them that night,” said Eric Klingensmith, of Potter, Beaver County. “We didn’t think there was reason for alarm. They wanted to have the kids in their custody until they could get a lawyer to work through what they needed to do.”
The baby, Ambrose Klingensmith, had injuries consistent with abuse, the hospital told the parents, and they left with the baby, according to a criminal complaint filed against Daemon Klingensmith, 23, and Funnen, 32, of West Mifflin.
They are facing felony child endangerment and obstruction charges filed by West Mifflin police.
The hospital called West Mifflin police when the couple left before a “full examination” of Ambrose could be completed, according to the complaint.
“For the safety and security of our patients, staff and visitors, we do not discuss details of our security protocols,” UPMC Children’s Hospital spokeswoman Andrea Kunicky said in a statement emailed Thursday in response to a query seeking information as to how the couple was able to leave with their son.
Eric and Kimberly Klingensmith didn’t know where the couple went. Their phones were turned off. Police couldn’t contact them, and a search ensued that involved the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
The grandparents cooperated with authorities and tried to get in contact with the couple, they said.
“We just wanted to make sure everybody was safe,” Eric Klingensmith said.
The couple sought treatment for Ambrose because he was constipated, Kimberly Klingensmith said.
The bruising thought to be abuse was likely the result of massages the couple performed to induce a bowel movement, she said.
Ambrose and his stepbrother, 3-year-old Makias Palmer, were examined by doctors in Tennessee, who found them to be in good health, Eric Klingensmith said.
“They confirmed my belief the whole time,” he said. “I’ve seen Daemon with the baby. He is a doting father.”
The grandparents hope to gain custody of their grandson and Makias, whom they view as a grandson, as the criminal cases against their parents proceed, Eric Klingensmith said.
The children are in the process of being transported back to the area by the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families, the Klingensmiths said.
CYF officials aren’t legally allowed to talk about cases, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said.
“What typically happens when a child is removed is that willing kin are sought to place the child with, and if none are considered appropriate, then the child is placed with a suitable, trained foster family,” said Mark Berolet, a spokesman with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, which operates CYF.
CYF makes recommendation in cases, but children are placed by a court order, he said.
The Klingensmiths have also hired Pittsburgh attorney David J. Shrager to represent their son.
“From my understanding they didn’t even know what they did was illegal and there was an issue,” Shrager said.
The couple are awaiting an extradition hearing set for Tuesday, Shrager said. He does not represent Funnen and an attorney for her is not listed in online court records.
“I don’t believe they had any nefarious intent,” Shrager said. “I don’t believe they were meaning to commit any crimes.”
Klingensmith has no criminal record, Shrager said.
Funnen has a history of providing a “false narrative” regarding her family history, has attempted suicide during two pregnancies and two of her children have been removed from her custody by CYF, according to the criminal complaint.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .