FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A Fort Worth family is in a legal fight against a man they call ‘the lowest of the low.’

Tim Cole died in prison in 1999. He was serving a 25 year sentence for rape, but was later proven innocent and posthumously exonerated. Now, his long-estranged father is trying to claim nearly half of the money the state awarded to his family on his behalf.

The law that requires the State of Texas to pay the wrongfully convicted for their time is called the ‘Tim Cole Act’.

Cole died in prison before his name was cleared, so the state is paying his family.

It’s been 12 years since Cole died, nearly three since he was exonerated, but Cole’s family said it’s been 44 years since his biological father, Ernest Kennard, was a part of his life.

“Dead-beat dad,” said Cole’s half-brother, Cory Session, “he is the poster adult, poster child for dead-beat dads.”

That accusation isn’t stopping Kennard from seeking part of the deceased man’s estate.

“For this other man to show up who hasn’t been there for 44 years and say ‘I want what’s coming to me,’ it’s kind of hard to swallow.”

In 1985 Cole was convicted of raping a Lubbock woman while he was a student at Texas Tech University.

A decade later the actual rapist confessed to the crime.

Cole’s name was finally cleared in 2009, seven years after he died in prison from an asthma attack.
As compensation, his mother received more than a million dollars from the state for her son’s pain and suffering while in prison.

“When Tim went to prison it was my mother who cried the hardest,” Session said, “when he died it was my mother who cried the most.”

But now her ex-husband, Ernest Kennard, who now lives in Houston, is seeking part of that payment.

“I have more respect for Jerry Wayne Johnson, the rapist who was responsible for Tim going to prison, than I ever will for this man named Ernest Kennard.” Session said. “You have a man who never paid a dime in support who never supported his children, seeking to claim half of the estate of his deceased son. Lowest of the low is what I believe he is.”

CBS 11 tried to reach Kennard and his attorney, Aaron Ray, but our calls were not returned