After nearly 15 months of a living nightmare, parents David and Angel Cook are trying to rebuild their lives after being cleared of their son's death.
The Cooks' son, Buddy died suddenly at their home in Cleburne, TX, in March 2014.
That is not where the story begins, however.
Buddy and his sister Mary Jane were taken by the Cooks in 2010, and officially adopted in May 2012. Their mother gave the siblings to the Cooks, and upon arrival, the Cooks found that Buddy had been abused extremely.
He was covered in bruises, burns, and cuts. Doctors soon revealed that he had a sexually-transmitted disease.
Buddy was two years old at the time.
He would lash out at people: kicking, hitting, and punching others.
"We were left to try to figure out how to help a two-year-old that was beaten and sexually assaulted and had a lot of anger issues," Angel Cook said.
Child Protective Services did not come to the aid of the family, since according to Angel Cook, the child abuse took place outside of the state of Texas. This would not be the last time that the Cooks ran into trouble with CPS.
The Cooks had other children prior to adopting Buddy and Mary Jane. Austin, 12, has a pacemaker as he suffers from heart problems. Paige, 9, has asthma and deals with a lung condition. They also have a 14-month old son, Wesley.
All of these children would soon feel the effects of the foster care system and CPS.
After Buddy had passed, the chief medical examiner ruled his death as a homicide, after stating that they believed that he was deliberately starved to death, says the Cooks' attorney, Patrick Barkman.
After his death, Buddy was described by a CPS worker:
"He appeared to be only skin and bones. Buddy's stomach was caved in and his ribs could be seen popping out from under his skin."
The pathologist who performed the autopsy says other wise however.
Dr. Lloyd White, former pathologist for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office, said, "He was significantly underweight, but wasn't 'skin and bones.'"
"In fact, the autopsy showed that Buddy's bladder was full and his stomach contained food and water," White continued, countering the belief of CPS and the official report released by the medical examiner's office.
"It was my conclusion — based upon everything that I evaluated — that there was no evidence of death due to injury or abuse or neglect," said White, but that did not sway the chief medical officer, who believed that he had seen cases like this before.
And with the medical report ruled as a homicide, the Cooks were arrested on charges of injury to a child.
The remaining Cook children would be put into the foster care system on the same day as their brother's funeral.
13NewsNow reports that the Cooks had the words "Child Killers" painted onto their garage door, and twice gasoline was poured next to their house in a possible arson attempt or threat.
To help their defense, the Cooks purchased Buddy's medical records. Among the files, the parents found that Buddy had been tested positive for HIV antibodies, but they were never told by CPS or any other governing agency.
The reason? The Cooks were not his legal guardian at the time.
Dr. White did not know about the HIV test, as the files containing the test were not given to him by CPS.
"He had an atrophied thymus, and there was no explanation medically for an atrophied thymus, but an HIV-related problem certainly would explain that," said White.
The Johnson County District Attorney announced last December that charges against the parents would be dropped after new medical evidence had been found and a new witnesses had stepped forward.
During this entire investigation, the Cooks other children were suffering at the hands of the foster care system.
The oldest had bruises after claiming that he was abused while in the foster care system by other children. Two other boys claimed that they were abused while in the system.
Paige, who suffers from asthma, was placed with smoking foster parents. The foster parents claim that they smoked out of the reach of the children. A staph infection had appeared on Paige's face while she was in the foster care system.
The youngest child, Wesley, upon arrival at a family friend's home, was throwing up blood. It was later discovered that he had been able to swallow a screw before leaving the foster care system for the family friend.
After demanding a CPS investigation into all of these claims, the Cooks found out that CPS does not investigate claims against them.
Two of the boys and Angel testified about the abuse to various legislative committees.
Bryan Cook testified saying:
"I reported to my foster parents and my social worker... The social worker told me it was not a big deal, not to worry about it. … When I told my foster parents again, the foster dad took me and my brother into a room and showed his guns and said we needed to keep quiet about it."
After receiving a letter from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services saying that no issues were found in their foster care abuse claims, the Cooks and their attorney have more questions than answers.
Patrick Barkman said:
"It basically said, 'We asked the foster parents, and they said that didn't happen,' so there's that. 'We asked the social worker, and they said it didn't happen,' so there's that... That's not an investigation; that means we did the absolute minimum required to make it appear that we looked into it. If the shoe was on the other foot and somebody was accusing Angel, they would have never ended the investigation with, 'Well, Angel said it didn't happen.'"
Even after all charges had been dropped, and all children had been returned to the Cooks, they still have financial troubles to deal with after months and months of legal fees. David works every day of the week to earn enough income for the family.
CPS will continue to watch the family until later this year, even after all of the claims and medically documented issues that the Cooks say happened under CPS's watch.
"We lost a big part of our lives. All we have left is pictures and his toys and his graveside," says Angel Cook.