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Family grieving baby's death
Child died while in foster care

LAWRENCEVILLE - The death of a baby while he was in foster care has left a Lawrenceville family grieving and searching for answers.

Four-month-old Adam Lee Cook died Friday in DeKalb County. Chief Investigator Pat Bailey of the DeKalb County Medical Examiners Office said the cause of death has not been determined, as he is awaiting results of toxicology and histology tests. But Bailey said there is no sign of trauma.

"My grandchild's gone," said Glenda Atha, speaking for her son, Patrick Cook. "It's just a mess. It's real painful."

Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Beverly Jones said the father came to DFCS and said he couldn't provide for the child and agreed to relinquish custody.

Cook said that was not the case. He said he was seeking help with day care so he could work to support Adam and his two other children, Cameron Cook, who will be 2 in July, and Destiny Witten, 3. Destiny is Cook's step-daughter. He said he did not hear back from DFCS for two weeks and by then had lost his job.

While DFCS had investigated the family in the past, Cook acknowledged, the children had previously not been taken from the home until Cook reached out for help when his wife, whom he said has a drug problem, abruptly left home.

Last Thursday, an emergency hearing was held and the kids were taken into DFCS custody and placed into foster care, Atha said.

The family got a call Friday saying Adam was on his way to the hospital, and in another call, that he died.

While Jones said the department does not consider Adam's death suspicious, an investigation is under way. Cook said he cannot believe the baby died of natural causes, and he wants answers.

"There's no words as to what your child means to you," Cook said. "He was my heart."

Adam's funeral is expected to be held today, and Cook is now concentrating on getting the other two children out of foster care. Atha, who already has custody of three grandchildren, said she would be willing to take custody of Cameron and Destiny, and Cook said DFCS has scheduled a home evaluation for her.

Jones declined to discuss the open cases involving the other two children.

While Cook said he has been clean of drugs for years, information on the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office's Web site reveals Cook has a long history with the law, dating back to a 2001 arrest for possession of marijuana.

Cook was last booked into the jail in May 2007 on probation violation charges.

His wife, Sherrie Witten, also had several arrests, most recently Feb. 28 for driving without a license, giving a false name and blocking an intersection.

According to reports, police have responded to their Mercury Drive address 10 times since January 2007, including twice for domestic issues.