INVERNESS, Fla. - Denise Hallowell said her experience as an adopted child inspired her to adopt children of her own.
In 2016, after the younger of her two adopted sons, who was 12 at the time, accused her of abuse, she told FOX 13 News she knew the journey would not be an easy one, but it would be worth it.
"There are conditions that some of these children have that they actually grow further away from you," Hallowell said. "Some of that is because of those experiences they had in the past that we don't know anything about."
Her older son, Carlos Hallowell, who was 14 at the time, defended his mother to investigators.
Hallowell was a school teacher. She lost her job and her reputation, despite the case later being dropped due to lack of evidence. Hallowell maintained her innocence throughout.
Her younger son, who is not a blood relative of Carlos, was placed outside the home, leaving Denise and Carlos together to rebuild their lives.
In July, something went terribly wrong. The night of July 13, 2019, Carlos called 911. The now-17-year-old said he was awakened by the sound of barking dogs and found his mother's body.
Two months later, the teen who once defended his mother against allegations of abuse has been charged with her murder.
"We just cannot fathom for the life us how someone could murder their own mother in cold blood," said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "Carlos Hallowell said he was asleep in his bedroom and was awakened by the dogs when they were barking. He said he subsequently discovered his mother's body in the bedroom."
The sheriff said the story was a lie.
A 9-week investigation, which involved the Secret Service and other agencies, uncovered "hidden digital evidence" leading investigators to believe Carlos killed his mother.
"Every digital device leaves traces behind of everything we do in our daily lives," said Sheriff Prendergast. "We believe he took physical evidence from the scene and attempted to destroy it and hide it from us."
Carlos Hallowell is charged with first-degree, premeditated murder. The sheriff's office did not release details about how Denise Hallowell was killed.