Macomb woman gets life for beating death of Lapeer County child
LAPEER COUNTY — Lily Lynette Furneaux- Wolfenbarger, a smiling toddler with strawberry blond hair, should have started kindergarten this coming fall.
Instead her grieving family buried her two years ago and in February a Macomb County Circuit Court convicted the two-year-old’s 29-year-old stepmother, Renee King, of sexually assaulting and murdering her in the New Haven trailer she shared with the girl’s father.
The tragic death set Lily’s mother, Lauren Furneaux, on a path to become a statewide advocate for abused children.
The day after Lily was found unresponsive at her father’s New Haven home Nov. 20, 2010 and later declared dead at a nearby hospital, the New Haven Police Dept. charged King with murder and sexual assault. The woman has been in custody ever since.
While King and, initially, Lily’s father Jeff Wolfenbarger, claimed the death was accidental and that King slipped and fell while giving Lily a bath, the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s report indicated the toddler died of blunt force head trauma.
This February a jury of eight women and six men began the arduous task of listening to twoand a-half weeks of witnesses recount Lily’s final hours of life. At trial jurors were told Lily was sexually abused and struck in the head at least 20 times before she died.
Prior to Lily’s death her parents had a contentious shared custody arrangement. Lauren and Wolfenbarger squared off in Lapeer County court at least three times battling over custody.
“Poor Lauren was painted as a quasi-over reactive mother,” said Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith. “No one listened.”
This fall Lauren, now 25, campaigned for state Supreme Court candidates Judge Connie Marie Kelley, Judge Shelia Johnson, and Bridget Mary McCormack. She appeared in a commercial for the trio produced by Michigan Democratic Party; met with the women in September in Imlay City; and agreed to make appearances with them the following month.
She told The County Press, “I love seeing Lily on TV. That’s what it’s about. It’s her. I’m only doing her work.”