Justin Ross Harris, father of 22-month-old Cooper Harris, is on trial for the murder of his son, who was left for seven hours in Harris’s Hyundai Tucson. Over the objections of defense attorneys, the prosecution showed evidence that while Cooper was dying in the car, his father was sexting with six different women and sending them pictures of an erect penis.
Christian Boone, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, reported from the courtroom in the hearing for probable cause in the death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris.
Detective Phil Stoddard of the Cobb County police department asserted regarding the evidence from Harris’s computer, “We’ve barely scratched the surface.” One of the women Harris was sexting reportedly asked him, “Do you have a conscience?” Harris replied, “Nope.”
The timeline of the day of Cooper’s death was laid out fully by Stoddard. The Harris family awakened at 6:30 a.m., with the mother, Leanna, leaving for work at 7:15 a.m. Cooper watched cartoons before he and his father left for his father’s work, stopping on the way at Chick-fil-A at 9 a.m. and appearing “wide awake and happy.” Witnesses said Cooper appeared normal, without any illness or seeming to be on medications of any kind. Stoddard said Cooper was “active, talking, walking.”
The trips to Chick-fil-A happened roughly 2-3 times a month.
Harris strapped his son in tight, and according to Stoddard, Cooper gave his father a kiss, and the father kissed him back, supposedly because the father always kissed him in case there was a car accident. He added caustically that Harris “wanted his last memory to be his Daddy loved him.”
After they left Chick-fil-A at 9:19 a.m., they arrived at Ross Harris’s job at 9:25 a.m.
Stoddard testified that Harris never mentioned that he had checked the car at lunchtime; the only reason the police knew he had was that they checked the surveillance video. Harris also omitted mentioning that he went to Home Depot during lunch and bought two boxes of light bulbs, then returned to the car and tossed the light bulbs inside. About this time, he received a group email from Cooper’s daycare.
When Leanna went to daycare to pick up her son, they told her Harris never dropped him off. She responded, “Ross must’ve left him in the car.” Stoddard said the people at daycare tried to comfort her, saying Cooper’s absence could be due to a million reasons. Leanna was still worried.
Harris left work at 4:15 p.m. to go to a movie. He stopped roughly two miles from work, pulling over into Akers Mill. He parked the car, opened the rear door, removed the child from the car seat, and placed him on the pavement next to the car.
When police confronted Harris after finding Cooper dead, Stoddard recalled, “Harris is walking around, rubbing his eyes, look like he’s trying to hyperventilate. Then nothing. No tears, no real emotion.”
When Leanna was confronted with news of her son’s death, she showed no emotion, didn’t ask where Cooper was, and only asked where her husband was.
At the police station, Leanna and Ross Harris conversed, according to Stoddard. He said Leanna asked her husband, “Did you say too much?”
Ross said of Cooper, “He looked peaceful. His eyes were closed. His mouth was closed.” Stoddard testified Cooper’s eyes were not closed, and his mouth was not closed.
Leanna called her mother, who asked, “Why aren’t you crying? Why aren’t you reacting?” Leanna replied, “I must be in shock.”
Ross Harris said, “I dreaded how he’d look.”
Stoddard commented on the father’s behavior at the station, “It was all about him. ‘I can’t believe this has happened to me. Why am I being punished for this? What an I going to do, I’ll lose my job.'”
Evidence was presented that Harris had interviewed with Chick-fil-A but not been hired. He had twice viewed a video on June 13 about children who had died in cars. Evidence was also presented that he had two insurance policies on his son; one was worth $2,000 and another $25,000. He had also visited a sub-Reddit site which featured the concept “Child-free. People who advocated living child-free.”
When he was charged with murder, Harris, who protested Cooper’s death was an accident, searched on the Internet for “how to survive in prison.”
Examined by Maddox Kilgore, the defense attorney for Harris, Stoddard asserted, “Evidence is showing (Harris) had this whole second life he’s leading… evidence is now showing intent.”
Kilgore presented evidence that Harris texted his wife at 3:16 p.m., “When are you going to get my buddy?” He called a witness, Leonard Madden, who said Harris was performing CPR on his dead son and desperately crying out. Another witness for the defense, Alex Hall, who worked with Harris, asserted that Harris seemed normal the day of the death and said he loved his son all the time.
The judge ruled probable cause and denied bond for Harris.