Dad charged with murder after Georgia toddler left in vehicle

Thursday, June 19, 2014 5:09 AM
Last updated Friday, June 20, 2014 12:28 AM
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MARIETTA, Ga.  — ATLANTA — A man whose 22-month-old son died after being left in a hot SUV for hours was being held without bond on a felony murder charge Thursday, police in suburban Atlanta said.

Cobb County police officers work at the scene Wednesday.  AJC VIA/GEORGIA NEWSPAPER PARTNERSHIP
AJC VIA/GEORGIA NEWSPAPER PARTNERSHIP
Cobb County police officers work at the scene Wednesday.

Justin Ross Harris, 33, originally of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is also charged with cruelty to children in his son's death, Cobb County police spokesman Dana Pierce said in a statement.

Harris, who lives in Marietta, told investigators that he was supposed to drive his son to daycare, but instead drove straight to work and didn't realize the boy was strapped into his car seat until the ride home Wednesday afternoon, police have said.

Temperatures in the metro Atlanta area that day reached the low 90s. Harris pulled his family's SUV into a nearby shopping center and began trying to revive the child, police have said.

"It's just a terrible, God-awful situation," Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds told WSB Radio in Atlanta. "The thought of what a 22-month old child went through during those seven or so hours ... you don't even want to imagine it." The murder charge doesn't suggest that Harris intended to kill his son, but does indicate that child neglect factored into the boy's death, Reynolds said.

Harris is being held in the Cobb County jail. It was not immediately clear if he has an attorney. The Cobb County Medical Examiner's office will perform the boy's autopsy, Pierce said.

In another case Thursday, a 20-year-old Augusta, Georgia, woman was charged with child neglect after a Richmond County sheriff's deputy climbed through a sunroof to pull her infant son from the backseat of her unattended vehicle. The woman had draped a white sheet over the boy's car seat and left him alone while she took a final exam for cosmetology school, sheriff's officials said. The boy was treated and released to his grandmother.

Officials from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning said the incidents are timely reminders of the agency's "Look Again" campaign.

The public awareness initiative, launched last month, reminds parents and childcare workers always to double check a vehicle for children before locking the doors and walking away.

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IBeDogGone
2982
Points
IBeDogGone 06/19/14 - 06:03 am
7
0
Sad

This is sad. I cannot imagine what the family is going through at this time. The toddlers I have in my vehicle (3 grandchildren) would not have quit talking all the way to work because that is one of my favorite times to have a conversation, they are not distracted with anything else for the period they are strapped in their car seats. When we arrived at daycare they would either been excited to be there or they would have been begging me not to leave them.

The Mick
827
Points
The Mick 06/19/14 - 06:36 am
7
0
Who forgets their child is in

Who forgets their child is in the car? You hear about this a couple of times every summer now it seems like. This is totally irresponsible and a terrible way for this poor child to die. Malicious or not, the neglect is criminal.

nocnoc
41084
Points
nocnoc 06/19/14 - 06:49 am
8
0
Irresponsible Yes

Intentional likely not.

bigdan4439
31
Points
bigdan4439 06/19/14 - 07:17 am
5
1
Heartwrenching

@themick and others rushing to comment. I encourage you to read this WaPo article on this very phenomenon. This is a devastating case that will undoubtedly repeat itself. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/fatal-distraction-forge...

itsanotherday1
41879
Points
itsanotherday1 06/19/14 - 07:37 am
4
0
Excellent article Bigdan.

Excellent article Bigdan. Some people want blood when these things happen, but there is nothing society can do to punish people beyond how they punish themselves.

The article mentions how many times per year, with the numbers increasing, that this happens. You have to ask yourself how many times it happens when tragedy is averted by the child being remembered or discovered before it is too late. There are no statistics on that.

seenitB4
85196
Points
seenitB4 06/19/14 - 08:03 am
9
0
Put them back in the front seat

This happens because the child is asleep & quiet....usually when a parent is not the one who takes the child to daycare....we need a taped sign on dashboard saying KID IN BACK!! This will continue & more babies will die....IMO this law is a killer!

lhsparent11
55
Points
lhsparent11 06/19/14 - 08:16 am
9
1
SO SAD!

My heart & prayers goes out to this poor family! I'm sure they have a very tough road ahead of them and can't begin to imagine the grief this father is going to endure for the rest of his life!! I heard mention on the radio yesterday morning about the digital message boards somewhere that had the question posted "where is the baby?" to help prevent just such a tragedy.

augusta citizen
9099
Points
augusta citizen 06/19/14 - 08:20 am
3
0
bigdan4439

I just read the article you linked and it was truly heart wrenching.

AFjoe
2315
Points
AFjoe 06/19/14 - 08:22 am
6
0
Condolences to the family

The Father does not normally take the child to daycare. Some SUVs are "Large". Everyone has drove straight home when the wife has ask them to stop by the store. It sounds impossible to forget a child, but I can see how it happens. Everyone needs to just slow down a little, get off the phone for starters.

Marinerman1
4616
Points
Marinerman1 06/19/14 - 08:25 am
4
0
So Sad...

Yes, society can only do so much. And yes, this is tragic. And yes, the father will have to live with this for the rest of his life. It is true - no parent should have to bury their child. Thoughts and prayers to this family for healing.

LillyfromtheMills
12887
Points
LillyfromtheMills 06/19/14 - 08:35 am
1
0
Tx

BigD - so sad!

b1
139
Points
b1 06/19/14 - 08:59 am
3
0
Prayer

I pray for this family. So sad indeed!

JRC2024
8466
Points
JRC2024 06/19/14 - 09:05 am
5
0
Move the seats baby car seats

Move the seats baby car seats back to the front and things like this would not happen. Some very smart people make very dumb laws.

bright idea
781
Points
bright idea 06/19/14 - 09:40 am
7
0
Who doesn't

think about their 22 month old child ten times a day? Even at work, did the child never cross his mind? This is one more preoccupied dude. I just can't comprehend this.

internationallyunknown
4043
Points
internationallyunknown 06/19/14 - 09:42 am
5
0
Prayers for all involved! We

Prayers for all involved!

We as a society are so distracted...

GodisSoGood
892
Points
GodisSoGood 06/19/14 - 10:02 am
4
1
Hard to understand, but i've

Hard to understand, but i've had so many times where I've driven to work, and can't even remember how I got there because my mind was preoccupied while I was on the road. This is just so sad. No doubt, the father will punish himself for the rest of his life.

Itsallnew11
547
Points
Itsallnew11 06/19/14 - 10:21 am
3
0
Thank you bigdan4439

That was a powerful and moving article. Thank you for sharing. My thoughts and prayers are with this family. It is a tragedy that can happen to anyone in the rat race we call life. I thank God everyday that my children are now 21 and 15 and that God allowed me to raise them and we made it this far. A sleeping child can be an obsolete thought at home or in the car. It gets quiet, which is rare, and we get caught up in our thoughts. We are human. Sometimes we just need to slow down, breathe in fresh air, and allow the rat race to run around us while we enjoy the splendor of the moments.

jimmymac
36770
Points
jimmymac 06/19/14 - 10:32 am
0
0
PHONE
Unpublished

A while back in another article someone said that they should put their cell phone with the baby. I bet this wouldn't have happened if that were the case. People allow themselves to be distracted because of cell phone use when driving. Last Tues. I saw a well dressed woman coming out of Publix on her cell phone. She put her purse and I-pad on the roof of her car all the while talking and then proceeded to drive off sending them crashing to the ground. I was tempted to honk my horn before they fell but she probably would have ignored me and continued her conversation.

Airman
3764
Points
Airman 06/19/14 - 10:42 am
3
0
I think about my boys( 21, 22

I think about my boys( 21, 22 and 34) constantly. He left work and drove to a shopping center before he thought about his child. Please people, live your lives , stress could have caused the memory lapse who knows. I have my dogs in my vehicle alot and will not leave them inside unattended for more than a minute. Please be careful, this is such a tragedy...but something prompted a murder charge this morning

nocnoc
41084
Points
nocnoc 06/19/14 - 10:55 am
5
0
Accidental death is NOT MURDER

Why the DA decided to go with a MURDER Arrest is strange, given the present facts so far in such a extremely sad case.

The DA will need justify this charge with some additional facts.

Airman
3764
Points
Airman 06/19/14 - 11:29 am
3
0
Nocnoc

Thats what I was saying, they took him home last night, then picked him up this AM and charged him with murder, and no bond. Something got the DA's attention

BombquishaDavis
111
Points
BombquishaDavis 06/19/14 - 11:40 am
5
0
Praying for the father and

Praying for the father and the family. There is nothing on earth that can punish that man more than he can himself.

Fiat_Lux
15043
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/19/14 - 01:05 pm
6
0
This is NOT MURDER; it is a TRAGEDY.

Charging this father with murder is prosecutorial irresponsibility, unless there really is a whole lot more to this story.

He wasn't going to a bar at night and taking the kid rather than staying home or getting a sitter. He wasn't doing anything other than his standard, virtually by rote, daily routine--except for having to drop off his child. It's not murder. It's the pressure of everyday life and the lack of safeguards in place to address the weaknesses in the systems that govern and drive so much of our lives.

I don't know what the answer is to this particular problem, but if there aren't seriously aggravating circumstances attached, slamming the father in prison for this tragic lapse is beyond cruel, and our standard for punishment of crimes, even intentional and premeditated crimes, is that it not be cruel.

SimpleGirl
374
Points
SimpleGirl 06/19/14 - 01:26 pm
2
0
Forgotten child

This is truly a tragedy and we hear it all the time. It's just heart wrenching. How can anyone be so forgetful? Maybe everyone who has a little one should consider helping themselves to not forget by placing a picture of their little loved one where they see it all the time while driving. Even a sticky note as a reminder to drop them off at the daycare. Take responsibility and do something to help prevent this from happening! There have been times when people have done this with babies or animals just to run in a place "for a little while"......those are the stupid, heartless people who don't deserve to have children or pets. It's those that should be placed in a vehicle in the depth of summer and made to sit there for a long period of time.

raul
4539
Points
raul 06/19/14 - 01:35 pm
2
0
Involuntary manslaughter

Involuntary manslaughter would be more appropriate than murder.

Marinerman1
4616
Points
Marinerman1 06/19/14 - 04:07 pm
2
0
@JRC - Child Seats in the Back

The move to placing the child in the back was done when passenger-side airbags were installed. Infant seats are rear-facing, and the airbag was explosive. That having been said, yeah, place a sign on the dashboard to check the back, seems correct.

gabhanjacisa
14
Points
gabhanjacisa 06/19/14 - 02:27 pm
1
0
§ 16-5-1. [Effective Until

§ 16-5-1. [Effective Until 7/1/2014] Murder; Felony Murder

(a) A person commits the offense of murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.
(b) Express malice is that deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof. Malice shall be implied where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.
(c) A person also commits the offense of murder when, in the commission of a felony, he causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.
(d) A person convicted of the offense of murder shall be punished by death, by imprisonment for life without parole, or by imprisonment for life.
Cite as OCGA § 16-5-1

§ 16-5-70. Cruelty to Children

(a) A parent, guardian, or other person supervising the welfare of or having immediate charge or custody of a child under the age of 18 commits the offense of cruelty to children in the first degree when such person willfully deprives the child of necessary sustenance to the extent that the child's health or well-being is jeopardized.
(b) Any person commits the offense of cruelty to children in the first degree when such person maliciously causes a child under the age of 18 cruel or excessive physical or mental pain.
...
(e)
(1) A person convicted of the offense of cruelty to children in the first degree as provided in this Code section shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five nor more than 20 years.
...
Cite as OCGA § 16-5-70

Graymare
2992
Points
Graymare 06/19/14 - 03:06 pm
2
0
So sad. But didn't he leave

So sad. But didn't he leave the child in there all day? He forgot about his child all day? That's the part I cannot comprehend.

allhans
23523
Points
allhans 06/19/14 - 03:52 pm
2
0
Yes....One would think that

Yes....One would think that the father would have remembered at some point in the day. A few minutes maybe, but long enough to die????

I can't begin to imagine how this man must be suffering.

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