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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Divorce nearly final for Marine
Josh Cooley had been at the center of a legal battle over who should care for him.
By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published June 27, 2007
TAMPA - On July 5, 2005, a roadside bomb in Iraq left Cpl. Josh Cooley unable to walk, talk or write.
Now, nearly two years later, there is concrete proof of his physical progress: Cooley's shaky signature on divorce papers.
Citing "irreconcilable differences, " the Marine reservist and former Pasco County sheriff's deputy filed for divorce April 30 from Christina Cooley, his wife of 21/2 years and a fellow deputy.
In an accompanying letter, his social worker said he had requested a divorce during an interview with her two months before, leaving her with "no doubt that these are Joshua's independent thoughts."
"Divorce. Divorce. Divorce, " he responded when asked what he would like to do about his relationship with his wife, according to the social worker.
The papers were filed in Los Angeles County, California, where Josh Cooley has lived since December at a rehabilitative center for people with traumatic brain injuries.
A week ago, he received a default judgment because Christina Cooley had not filed a response to the divorce petition within the required 30 days of service.
A judge should finalize the divorce in the next couple of weeks, said Kathy Dorough, the paralegal who prepared Cooley's divorce paperwork.
"She is out of his life, " said Josh's older brother, Christopher Cooley. He said Christina Cooley had not called or visited her husband in six months.
Christina Cooley declined to comment Tuesday. Her attorney could not be reached.
The divorce would cap a costly legal battle over who should care for the 30-year-old Marine.
Last September, in Hillsborough County court, Cooley's brother and mother sought to wrest control of his financial and medical decisions from his wife. At the time, he was being treated at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa.
Christina Cooley - who married Josh in December 2004, two months before he shipped off to war - countered with her own request to be named her husband's guardian. She disputed his family's allegations that she misspent his money and didn't properly care for him.
Court records show that she relented in March, withdrawing both her guardianship request and her objection to his family members' being named guardians.
Experts found Josh to be mentally competent but in need of help with his finances. In April, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Susan Sexton appointed Christopher Cooley as guardian for that limited purpose.
The divorce petition requests that Josh retain land he purchased in Shady Hills before his marriage. Also, it seeks for Christina Cooley to return to her maiden name.
Ed Cooley, Josh's father, said Tuesday that the divorce will allow his son to continue his remarkable recovery without distraction.
Josh Cooley is walking with a walker, his father said. He speaks softly, bathes and shaves and will probably be transferred to an outpatient program soon.
A therapist supported his arm as he signed the divorce papers.
"His handwriting is better now than it was before he got injured, " Ed Cooley said.
Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.