Affidavit: Cleburne boy, 4, appeared malnourished at time of death

Posted Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A 4-year-old Cleburne boy appeared to be "skin and bones" when he was found dead at home last week, and his adoptive parents had failed to seek medical attention, according to court documents released Thursday.

Buddy Cook appears to have died from dehydration and malnutrition, although a final ruling is pending further tests, according to a petition and affidavits filed by Child Protective Services investigators seeking the removal of Buddy’s seven siblings from their home.

The children are in foster care as the investigation continues.

The documents paint a horrific picture of Buddy’s life prior to his adoption and outline emotional and behavorial issues that he had reportedly been experiencing since.

CPS investigators accused Buddy’s adoptive parents, Angel and David Cook, of endangering the physical or emotional well-being of their children, who are from 1 to 12 years old.

"Based on the children’s statements, their vulnerability and the parents’ inablity to provide an explanation for the condition that Buddy Cook was found in, it is the department’s recommendation that if these children were allowed to live in the home with their parents ... they would be placed in eminent harm," the document reads.

But a family friend who sometimes cares for the children told investigators that they always appeared healthy and appropriately clean.

The friend said that she had seen Angel Cook tape gloves onto Buddy’s hands to prevent him from hurting himself and that Buddy had to be placed in a high chair for up to three hours before he would eat.

Buddy’s siblings gave varying accounts about their home life, according to the documents. Two reported being bathed just once a week.

Some said they were never denied food as punishment, while another said he and Buddy were sent to bed without dinner and were spanked with a belt if they left their room without permission.

The affidavit notes that the Cooks’ home was clean and had ample food.

Buddy was pronounced dead at his home in the 500 block of Odell Street about 11:20 a.m. March 22. A CPS investigator wrote that his eyes and cheeks were sunken and that he was emaciated."

She saw bruises on his wrists and marks on his face and legs, the affidavit says.

An autopsy, however, determined that Buddy had food and water in his stomach and that his bowel was full, "all indicating intake of food and water."

The autopsy also found that he had no fractures, nor external injuries indicative of abuse, and that the injuries to his face were consistent with a fall.

Buddy weighed 31 pounds, about six pounds below the average weight for a child his age.

His adoptive parents told investigators that he was the product of an incestuous relationship and that he had been sexually abused by his biological mother and several men.

The Cooks said that they took in Buddy and his sister and that the adoption was finalized eight or nine months ago.

Buddy came to them with serious problems, they said.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, reactive attachment disorder and a sexually transmitted disease. He banged his head on things, sat in the corner rocking back and forth, and picked at the walls, or his own skin.

Usually, the Cooks said, they had to feed him with a spoon to get him to eat.

CPS has no record of previous contact with the Cook family in Texas. The documents say there is a "significant history" regarding Buddy and his sister out of Oklahoma, where they lived with their biological parents.

Officials are seeking records from Oklahoma and New Mexico, where Buddy had also lived before moving in with the Cooks.

Medical records from Cook Children’s Medical Center indicate that Buddy received an extensive examination in April 2011, "which reveal a child that had severe behavioral issues relating to abuse and neglect by his biological parents," the documents state.

David Cook told investigators that Buddy recently had begun refusing to eat or drink but ate his own feces. His parents were feeding him Ensure because he was losing weight.

The couple discussed taking Buddy to the doctor or the hospital for another evaluation, the documents say.

"Mr. Cook expressed he was concerned about Buddy’s weight, yet could not provide any answer as to why Buddy was not taken to the doctor or hospital regarding his weigh loss," the affidavit states.

Angel Cook told CPS that on the night before he death, Buddy threw up before and after dinner but had no fever. She said she put him to bed early after he said he was tired.

The next day, she heard him moan twice in his room and found him with his eyes open but not focused, prompting her to call 911.

An 11-year-old sibling told investigators he "heard a lot of noises coming from Buddy’s bedroom like groans and banging and that the groaning only lasted 45 seconds," the affidavit states.

"He stated Buddy was probably banging because he couldn’t breathe."

The brother said that when he and his mother went to check on Buddy, they found him not breathing.

Angel Cook told the investigator that she had intended to take Buddy to the doctor on the day he died.

She said she had not taken him earlier because she was waiting for him to get over his stomach bug.

When Buddy Cook had last seen a doctor is unclear.

Angel Cook said she had last taken the boy in June, when he received shots and it was noted that he was underweight.

CPS is still accessing Buddy’s complete medical records. The affidavit notes the boy was seen by his doctor in September 2011 for a follow-up visit regarding his behavior and speech.

At that time, he weighed 32 pounds.

"We’re still investigating," said Marissa Gonzales, a CPS spokeswoman. "We’re taking everything we’re told and we’re double-checking to see if it’s accurate. Hopefully, that’s going to give us a picture of what was going on with this family."

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd

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