Renee King charged in death of Lily Furneaux
MOUNT CLEMENS — Eight women and six men spent two-and-a-half weeks listening to witnesses recount the final hours of Lily Lynette Furneaux- Wolfenbarger’s life before taking less than two hours Monday to decide that Renee King, 29, was guilty of murder, criminal sexual conduct and child abuse.
Lily’s grandmother, Lynette, said her family is “ecstatic” over the verdict and vowed that “Justice for Lily is not over.”
Lily, a smiling 2- year-old with strawberry blond hair, was found dead in her father’s mobile home in New Haven, a community of 3,000 in northern Macomb County, the night of Nov. 20, 2010.
The toddler’s mother, Lauren Furneaux, had a contentious shared custody arrangement with the child’s biological father, Jeffery Wolfenbarger, 29. The two squared off in Lapeer County court at least three times battling over custody. In an April 2010 interview with The County Press, Lauren said, “He lived a different lifestyle.”
Lily and her mother lived in Elba Township with her grandparents, Lynette and Chico Wolfenbarger.
King, Lily’s stepmother, claimed she slipped and fell while giving Lily a bath. Prosecutors said King beat the child to death because she soiled her pants.
Lily’s father is facing misdemeanor aggravated assault and disorderly conduct charges following a Feb. 17 confrontation outside a second floor court room the Macomb County Court House with members of the Furneaux family.
The Furneaux family is expected back in court April 10 to give victim impact statements at King’s sentencing. However, said Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, the sentence is all but a foregone conclusion.
Convicted of two life felonies, King is looking at a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“We were able to bring the defendant to justice. We just can’t bring Lily back,” said Smith.
Lily’s mother, Lauren, and Wolfenbarger had been at odds since October 2008 when Lauren lost a bid for sole custody, based on the grounds that allowing the father in-home visitation would disrupt breastfeeding and the bond that forms between mother and baby.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Higgins had given Wolfenbarger custody of Lily, from 6 p.m. Monday through 6 p.m. Thursday and one weekend a month.
“Poor Lauren was painted as a quasi-over reactive mother,” said Smith. “No one listened.”
At trial, said Smith, they just listened as one of King’s cousin’s testified that on at least one occasion King had reached over the seat while driving and struck Lily in the face, bloodying her nose.
Smith said that while King gave law enforcement at least three different stories, Lily died of blunt force trauma. He said in addition to be struck in the head at least 20 times, Lily was sexually abused.
“This goes to the worst end of the scale,” said Smith. “I’ve got a picture of Lily in my office. My daughter was born the same month. The idea of what happened is just so foreign to any member of rational society.”
While King and her defense attorney, Jason Malekiewicz, said she fell on Lily while bathing her, Smith noted that King was just over five foot tall and Lily was nearly three foot tall. “The jury didn’t buy it for one second.”
Although Wolfenbarger had filed for divorce/annulment from King in Macomb County court the month before Lily’s death, he was still living with her at the time of the murder and testified on her behalf.
During the trial, said Smith, the prosecution presented videos, taken by Wolfenbarger, of King unsuccessfully attempting to get pain killers at Macomb County hospital emergency rooms. While King claimed to have a bad back, the prosecutor portrayed her as a drug abuser.
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said Wolfenbarger and Lauren Furneaux got into an altercation Feb. 17 during a break in the trial. The Sheriff said the two men apparently exchanged words and Wolfenbarger allegedly ran over a “frail” woman in an attempt to get at the other man. Wickersham said Wolfenbarger was arrested and later released on a $100 bond and both men were barred from the court house.