No Death Penalty for Dad Charged in Toddler Death

By: Associated Press/CBS News Email
By: Associated Press/CBS News Email

News Release: Associated Press
September 25, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) -- A prosecutor says he won't seek the death penalty for a Georgia man whose toddler son died after he was left in a hot vehicle.

Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said Wednesday he won't seek the death penalty against Justin Ross Harris.

Harris faces multiple charges, including malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children. The malice murder charge indicates prosecutors intend to prove Harris intentionally left his 22-month-old son Cooper to die in the hot car.

The eight-count indictment also includes charges related to sexually explicit exchanges prosecutors say Harris had with an underage girl.

Harris has told police he was supposed to drive his son to day care the morning of June 18 but forgot the child was in the SUV and drove to work.


Update: Associated Press
September 4, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) -- A Georgia man whose son died after he was left in a hot car for seven hours has been charged with murder in the toddler's death.

A Cobb County grand jury on Thursday indicted Justin Ross Harris on multiple charges including malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children. Harris has been in jail since his arrest the day his son died.

Harris has told police he was supposed to drive his son to day care the morning of June 18 but drove to work without realizing that the child was strapped into a car seat in the back.

A police detective testified at a hearing in July that Harris was sitting in his office exchanging nude photos with several women the day his son died.


Update: Associated Press
July 11, 2014

ATLANTA , Ga. (AP) -- The wife of a Georgia man facing charges after their son died in a hot car has retained a criminal defense attorney for herself.

Atlanta attorney Lawrence Zimmerman says he now represents Leanna Harris.

Harris has not been charged with any crimes in the case. Asked about his role in the case, Zimmerman said he can't comment further.

Her husband, Justin Ross Harris, faces murder and child cruelty charges in the June 18 death of their son, 22-month-old Cooper Harris. The father told Cobb County police he left the boy in the SUV for about seven hours after forgetting to drop him off at day care and going to work.


Update: CBS Web News
July 4, 2014

MARIETTA, Ga. The Georgia father accused of murder in his son's death last month in a hot SUV told family members how to cash in on the $27,000 life insurance policies on the boy, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing search warrants released Friday.

Justin Ross Harris, 33, allegedly made the comments while in jail, reports the paper.

"Through the investigation Harris has made comments to family members regarding a life insurance policy that he has on Cooper and what they need to do in order to file for it," the documents state, reports the paper.

Harris and his wife Leanna also reportedly told police that their worst fear was that their 22-month-old son, Cooper, would be left inside a hot vehicle, reports the paper.

The documents reportedly reveal some new information in the death investigation, but largely echo hours of testimony from a Thursday hearing during which Harris was denied bond. During the hearing, detectives said Harris and his wife had two life insurance policies on their son, and that Harris was "sexting" a 17-year-old girl while his son died in the hot car.

According to police, Harris said that on the morning of June 18, he went to breakfast with his son at Chick-fil-A, then strapped the child into his car seat and gave him a kiss. Harris was supposed to drive the child to daycare, but he told police he instead drove to work without realizing that his son was in the backseat.

Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard testified Thursday that Harris had been "sexting" with up to six women, including a 17-year-old, while he was at work the day the child died. He also said that the investigation revealed Harris had a habit of speaking with various women through computer-related messaging services and had even met up with some women and told at least one that he had cheated on his wife before.

The detective also said that in the weeks before Cooper's death, Harris did an Internet search for "how to survive in prison" and had looked at websites that advocated living a "child-free" life.

Defense attorney Maddox Kilgore argued that the evidence involving Harris' Internet and texting activities had no bearing on his client's intent and was being used simply to publicly shame him.

After the three hour-hearing Thursday, Harris has not been granted bond.


Update: Associated Press
July 3, 2014

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) -- A defense attorney says a Georgia man had no intention of leaving his toddler son inside a hot SUV for hours, killing the boy.

Attorney Maddox Kilgore says his client, Justin Ross Harris, had lunch with two friends the day the boy died and then came back to his SUV to put a couple of light bulbs he had purchased inside the vehicle.

Kilgore says Harris wouldn't have led his friends right up to the car if he had left the boy inside intentionally. Kilgore also said Harris had texted his wife later that afternoon, asking when she was going to pick up their son.

Authorities have said Harris left the boy in the car intentionally. They say he had been exchanging nude photos with women while he was at work and the boy sat in the hot vehicle.

Update: CNN
June 30, 2014

Police are now investigating Cooper Harris' mother. The boy's father is already behind bars. Facing murder and child cruelty charges.

In search warrants released this weekend, police said, "Leanna Harris, the child's mother, was also questioned regarding the incident and made similar statements regarding researching in car deaths and how it occurs."

The high temperature the day 22-month old Cooper died was 92 degrees.

The medical examiner's office found the child's cause of death "consistent with "hyperthermia" but is waiting for toxicology test results before making an official ruling.


Update: Associated Press
June 28, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) -- The father of a Georgia toddler who died in a hot SUV told authorities that he did an online search about children dying in vehicles because he was afraid it could happen.

Justin Ross Harris faces charges of murder and second-degree child cruelty in 22-month-old Cooper Harris' death.

Search warrants released Saturday by Cobb County Police Department say Harris told police that he researched what temperature can cause a child's death in a car.

The warrants say police were looking for a laptop, electronic devices and evidence of child neglect or abuse at the family's Marietta home. Harris' phone and car were included.

Harris has told police he was supposed to drive his son to daycare but drove to work on June 18, forgetting the boy was in the car.


News Release: Associated Press
June 25, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) -- A new arrest warrant says a Georgia man accused of leaving his son in an SUV on a hot day returned in the middle of the day to put something in the vehicle, where the child was strapped into a seat in the back.

The warrant filed Tuesday also downgrades one charge against 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris, from first-degree child cruelty to second-degree. Harris also faces a murder charge and is being held without bond.

A Cobb County police officer wrote that Harris left his child in the car for about seven hours June18th. Temperatures reached the low 90s.

Harris has told police he was supposed to drive his son to daycare but drove to work without remembering the boy was strapped in his seat until the ride home.


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