AUSTIN, Texas - Colton Turner's life was cut tragically short in September of 2014. The toddler was a victim of child abuse.
The Child Protective Services report, released after his remains were found, shows during two of their investigations, the agency couldn't find him or his mother, Meagan Work.
But she did have plenty of run-ins with the law. Could one of those have saved the child's life?
We uncovered new video from last February from a Milam County traffic stop. A third CPS case was still open at the time.
Milam County Sheriff David Greene cannot believe they had the child within their reach, "I can't fathom doing this to a child."
Especially he says, now that he knows drugs were in the car. "It makes you sick at your stomach, it will make you have some sleepless nights."
Work and others were on their way to her mother's funeral when they were pulled over. Colton was in the car too. The group was held and searched for two hours before arresting one of the passengers.
"There was a lady in the vehicle that claimed the drugs were hers so she was arrested and they were allowed to go on their way," Greene says.
While this third CPS case was open, Work had fallen off their radar at some point. With no system in place for the agency to flag her, Milam County Sheriff's were in the dark.
"I wish she had been flagged. I mean it wouldn't have been a problem to pick her up and take her or hold her until CPS could get there and talk to them," says Sheriff Greene.
He says he wished he knew, "We have a good relationship with CPS here. They have some excellent workers. They work very close with us any time we need them and it would have just been a matter of a call to get them to come out."
CPS would see Colton alive for the last time a few weeks after that Milam County stop. "I'm frustrated that no one let us know there was CPS was going on , that no one let us know that he was un-locatable during times that he was right there in my kitchen," says Colton's great aunt, Raquel Helfrich.
Her niece Meagan cut all ties with her family after bruised photos of Colton surfaced in May. That's when Helfrich mounted a desperate plea to find the child, including multiple calls to CPS. Those would launch the agency's fourth and final investigation.
Today, Helfrich is still reeling from the tragic loss, "He wasn't within our grasp to protect him once we knew he was being abused."
According to Texas' "Family Code", CPS does have to notify law enforcement in cases of abuse and neglect. And vice-versa, local law enforcement agencies that take an abuse or neglect report, must notify CPS. Records show, in Colton's case though when he was seen by CPS and those notices were filed, they fell through the cracks too.
Work's family had gone to several local law enforcement agencies but without a location, they were turned away
Even though she was dodging her family, Meagan took Colton to see his father. His grandmother, Kim Vidure remembers that day vividly, "When we did get to see Colton, which was very little, he was always happy. We didn't see any marks on him."
Video shows a laughing child enjoying the outdoors. Vidure says when the two were there that afternoon, she had no idea that Work was on the run or that her family had called CPS. The two families didn't even know each other.
"They didn't know how to contact us to let us know," she explains.
Struggling through her tears, Vidure is still in shock, she would be the last responsible adult to see the child alive.
"I just wish we would have known what was going on."
But it seems no one else knew either, even though the 20-year-old was still on probation for a 2013 assault charge. Was that another missed opportunity to track her down?
"It's vital when CPS takes months to locate a child, it's vital that law enforcement is the one looking because they can locate them so much faster," says Helfrich.
She tried to get law enforcement involved but without Work's location, she hit a wall at every turn.
Then in August, two weeks before Colton's body was found, Work and her boyfriend Michael Turner were pulled over, where he was arrested for a probation violation. But Leander police had no way of knowing CPS was looking for Work or her son.
Looking back, Helfrich says, she believes if they did, Colton could have been found sooner.
"Putting him in that database would have had them looking for him. Law enforcement looking for him immediately," she believes.
But they didn't until one of Meagan's friends took the bruised photos of Colton to the Cedar Park Police Department, and then lead them to Work. The child's remains were found within 48 hours.
Publicly her friends claimed they no idea where she was hiding. But in emails given to us by Helfrich, those friends admitted to knowing her whereabouts all along.
"I do not see how anyone could know the things that they knew and not do anything and [then] help her."
Colton Turner's mother was, like so many others, hiding from CPS. Last year, the agency was forced to close 2,493 cases in Texas as "Unable To Locate" because the families couldn't be found.
The head of that agency, John Specia, says he wants his workers to have eyes on every child under their care, and he will go to great lengths to make that happen.
"We need to use law enforcement, hospitals, whatever resource we can use to find those families and find out if they need help," he said.
But there could be thousands more "un-locatable" children at risk. Calls made to CPS that don't have important information, like location, are labeled "Priority None" or "PN". Their handbook says specifically, those types of calls should be passed on for further review. But a breakdown of data from 2014 shows none of the 7,439 "PN" calls were ever forwarded.
Colton's grandmother is trying to put her grief aside to speak up for Texas' most vulnerable children.
"I want something done. I want to be able to save these children, they need help this has got to stop," she said.
She is joining forces with his great aunt Raquel to fight for legislation in his memory to save those who need it the most, "this common cause is in his honor. It's in his name it's his legacy. It is his justice we stand together in that because that's all we have left to give Colton," Helfrich said.
CPS has admitted to failing Colton Turner. Since the little boys' death, they have made sweeping changes but the toddler has also inspired legislation that could prevent thousands of other Texas children from suffering the same fate.
Helfrich says, they will see to it, through "Colton's Law" that this never happens again.
"You just don't ever want another family to go through it."
Vidure agrees, "I want Colton here but he can't be but with this law, we can save other children."
For the past five months, FOX 7's Elizabeth Saab has highlighted the toddler's family's relentless push for the bill. Cutting through layers of red tape. It would require law enforcement involvement in CPS cases where children can't be found.
"The police and DPS will be able to know immediately that the person perhaps they come in contact with is responsible for a child that is "unlocatable" so this should make a big difference," says Georgetown State Representative Marsha Farney.
She represents Milam, Burnet, and parts of Williamson County. So much of this happened in her back yard. She says that's why she's sponsoring the bill.
"Colton's life matters and because of Colton we want to make a difference in the lives of other children so it doesn't happen to anyone else."
She didn't realize there wasn't already a bridge between CPS and Law Enforcement in these kinds of cases.
"I thought that this was already in place so I was surprised to see that there was this gaping hole in essence children are the ones who are falling through."
Sheriff David Greene says had it been in effect last February, it could have saved Colton's life.
"I have no doubt if that law had been in effect, this law, the boy would probably be alive now."
It seems the man in charge of CPS would support it too.
"It is not just our responsibility. It is a community responsibility and we will obviously follow any legislation that is passed that helps us find these kids," said Commissioner Specia.
Finally paving the way to better protect the unprotected.