Georgia dad returned to hot SUV with son inside, warrant says

  • Follow Metro

Justin Ross Harris, 33, is accused of leaving his 22-month-old son in an SUV on a hot day.  ASSOCIATED PRESS
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Justin Ross Harris, 33, is accused of leaving his 22-month-old son in an SUV on a hot day.

MARIETTA, Ga. — The investigation of a toddler’s death in a hot SUV in Georgia hinges on a key question: Was the boy the victim of a horrific accident after his father simply forgot to take him to day care, or did the man know the child was inside when he left him strapped in for seven hours?

A newly filed arrest warrant supporting the murder charge against 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris states that he stopped with his son for breakfast and also returned to put something inside his vehicle around lunchtime while the child was inside it.

Harris has told police he was supposed to drive his 22-month-old son to daycare but drove straight to work on June 18 without remembering the boy was strapped in his seat. After spending the day at work, he pulled into a shopping center parking lot on the ride home and hysterically asked for help for his son.

Harris was being held without bond Wednesday. Jail records didn’t list an attorney for him.

Cobb County Police Chief John Houser said Wednesday that he understands tragic accidents happen, but evidence indicates a “more serious crime” has been committed. He didn’t elaborate on what the evidence was.

“The chain of events that occurred in this case do not point toward simple negligence and evidence will be presented to support this allegation,” Houser said in a message released by the department.

The Cobb County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday that toxicology results are still pending but that it believes the cause of death was hyperthermia and the manner of death was homicide. Hyperthermia is a condition in which the temperature of the body spikes due to the heat.

The new warrant filed late Tuesday also downgrades one charge against Harris from first-degree child cruelty to second-degree child cruelty. First-degree cruelty to children requires that a person “willfully deprives the child necessary sustenance,” while second-degree cruelty to children is caused by “criminal negligence” under Georgia law.

Harris put his son, Cooper, in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of his Hyundai Tucson after eating at a Chick-fil-A restaurant the morning of the boy’s death, the new warrant says. He then drove to work and left the child strapped into the car seat when he went inside, the warrant says.

At lunchtime, Harris returned to the vehicle, opened the driver’s side door and placed an object inside before going back inside his workplace, the warrant says. It does not explain how the officer knows that.

Around 4:15 p.m., Harris left work and, soon after, pulled over at a shopping center and asked for help with his child, the warrant says. The child was left in the vehicle for about seven hours, the warrant says. The temperature that day was 88 degrees at 5:16 p.m., according to the first warrant in the case, filed the day after the child died.

Prosecutors may opt for the harshest charges available and then scale back in felony murder cases, said Jessica Gabel, an associate professor of law at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

“They’re definitely going to look at how healthy was the child, the family’s previous history, whether dad was usually somebody who was very responsible,” she said. “And the defense, if this reaches a trial, will be collecting their evidence that he was a good parent, a fit parent.”

Neighbors and acquaintances of Harris and his wife described them as loving parents. Harris is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and moved to Georgia in 2012 to work for Home Depot.

Their landlord, Joe Saini, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Harris and his wife are “very, very nice” people who were in love with their baby.

“Everything was going right for this couple,” Saini said. “They wanted to buy a house so they could have some space for their child to run around the backyard.”

Cory Burns, a police officer in Tuscaloosa, said Harris worked for the department as a dispatcher. Burns said his wife, Valissa, worked as a dispatcher alongside Harris and remembers that he and his wife were eager to have children but had some trouble conceiving.

Cory Burns remembers Harris as “a pretty happy guy, always down to earth.” Harris brought his son back for to the department a visit recently, Burns said.

“Everyone’s praying for him and his family,” he said. “It’s tragic.”

Comments (22) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
to tell the truth1
210
Points
to tell the truth1 06/25/14 - 08:19 am
4
21
Children abandoned

Where are all the comments from the usual forum on this one? The 2 recent cases involving 2 Black individuals; the forum was running over with all kinds of negative feedback.

seenitB4
96821
Points
seenitB4 06/25/14 - 08:25 am
10
1
The comments are there

This makes me feel sick....

corgimom
38174
Points
corgimom 06/25/14 - 08:46 am
8
6
The story didn't sound right

The story didn't sound right from the start.

palmettogreg
29
Points
palmettogreg 06/25/14 - 08:51 am
3
9
Don't believe it

I don't believe this father left his child to suffer and die in that hot car on purpose. I just don't believe it. Who is saying this? This is too important to quote sources. Who says he knew the child was in the car and did nothing?

seenitB4
96821
Points
seenitB4 06/25/14 - 08:58 am
6
2
OMG!!

BREAKING: New details have been released against Justin Ross Harris, the father accused of leaving his young child in a hot car last week. Investigators say he 'visited' the car during his lunch period. Follow the breaking details: http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/25864933/sources-toddler-death-may-not...

seenitB4
96821
Points
seenitB4 06/25/14 - 08:59 am
11
2
If there were cameras at work

They will know if he did go back to his car.

AFjoe
5328
Points
AFjoe 06/25/14 - 09:05 am
12
0
Comments

I made an initial comment. The way the story was first presented, it sounded like a a dreadful mistake had been made. The other two were not mistakes but neglect and/or stupidity. If this guy turns out to be guilty, "hang him high". Want to hear more details.

palmettogreg
29
Points
palmettogreg 06/25/14 - 10:22 am
1
11
Don't assume

Just because he went back to car to put something in it, doesn't mean he saw or remembered the child was there. He could have not seen the child and continued to be absent-minded. Lot of assumptions going on here.

Darby
29165
Points
Darby 06/25/14 - 10:42 am
9
0
Yeah, to t.t.t.t....

we really need to make this some sort of trumped up racial incident don't we?

We really need to go there.....

As I recall, there was all sorts of condemnation of this man when this story first broke.

And BTW, Chronicle have you checked the date of the incident given in the story above?

jimmymac
47303
Points
jimmymac 06/25/14 - 11:01 am
1
0
CHILD
Unpublished

I find it incomprehensible to think that a father could forget his child in a car for that long. I can't believe any father or mother could forget their child at all. This story stunk to high heaven from the minute it was reported. This clown should go to prison for life to make sure he can never procreate again. He is either too evil or too stupid to be allowed to have children around him forever.

seenitB4
96821
Points
seenitB4 06/25/14 - 11:28 am
10
1
darby

Haters gotta hate, yaknow

Stir the pot
stir the pot
stir the pot

seenitB4
96821
Points
seenitB4 06/25/14 - 12:46 pm
6
0
I'm crying now--what a shame

NEW DETAILS: FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis reports that investigators seized Ross Harris' work computer from Home Depot after his arrest last week. In the search history on that computer, a law enforcement source tells the FOX 5 I-Team someone searched for information on 'how long it takes for an animal to die in a hot car'. MORE: http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/25864933/sources-toddler-death

seenitB4
96821
Points
seenitB4 06/25/14 - 12:59 pm
11
1
If he killed this baby

The only true punishment would be to spread him across hot coals---until--until..
I won't say more because SM wouldn't like it.

corgimom
38174
Points
corgimom 06/25/14 - 02:01 pm
8
2
A parent murdering their

A parent murdering their child is sadly, not unheard of.

How that baby suffered.

He's another one that I could give a lethal injection to and not have a pang of regret.

karradur
2878
Points
karradur 06/25/14 - 02:46 pm
1
6
...

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!

Pops
14051
Points
Pops 06/25/14 - 02:52 pm
12
1
The comments

here have been pretty brutal. This guy knew exactly what he was doing........he deserves to be convicted and to rot in hell......I'm beige...he is beige.......if he was black I would still say he needs to rot in hell......I believe in equal opportunity.....

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 06/25/14 - 03:11 pm
0
0
harris
Unpublished

should be cremated while still breathing and making excuses.

The Mick
832
Points
The Mick 06/25/14 - 03:15 pm
5
1
This guy needs to go to the

This guy needs to go to the front of the line for the needle. As for race being an issue...to tell the truth I believe all children are innocent.

Fiat_Lux
16411
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/25/14 - 05:08 pm
5
1
Jeez

There really aren't words for something this unbelievable. Didn't he love his son at all? Has he got such a rock in the center of his chest that he couldn't feel the least little twinge at how terrible it was for that baby to be in that car all alone and slowing cooking to death?

If I feel what I feel just reading this story, I can't imagine what his family must be feeling about him. What's left of his miserable existence undoubtedly will not be happier than it is today.

happychimer
19503
Points
happychimer 06/25/14 - 07:58 pm
4
1
He took the child to

He took the child to Chick-fi-la to eat, then drove less than a mile to work. Now think about it. You put your child in your car and drive less than a mile and you forget your child is in the car? Think about it. not even 1 mile! No way did he forget.

myfather15
56267
Points
myfather15 06/25/14 - 10:11 pm
5
1
Unbelievable!!

Not an ounce of sympathy in me for this guy; no matter how it happened!! I hope he gets exactly what he deserves!! Let's leave him in a car and "forget" he's in there!!

Young Fred
20528
Points
Young Fred 06/25/14 - 10:38 pm
4
1
I'm with pops

no excuse, no not none(one?)!

How many times has this happened?

Too many times!

It's interesting to see those that would excuse this action. Maybe not this time, but the same situation in the past.

I'm willing to bet, if a story was put forth about how this particular man was too busy fighting climate change, and giving of his time for ACORN, there would be many more that would tend to find excuses for his actions.

Tis a shame, but true!

Pond Life
17682
Points
Pond Life 06/26/14 - 05:15 am
9
0
I was going to give some
Unpublished

I was going to give some negative feedback on this guy, but since he's white I'll hold back.

Sheesh....the racial chip some people have on their shoulder.

corgimom
38174
Points
corgimom 06/26/14 - 05:49 am
3
3
Young Fred, not me, there's

Young Fred, not me, there's no excuse for doing that.

Airman
3823
Points
Airman 06/26/14 - 06:13 am
5
0
palmettogreg

Read the link below. He was with his son at Chic Fil Et less than a mile from his office. If you love your they are constantly on your mind. Mine are grown and out of the house but still on my mind always

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/autopsy-determines-toddlers-manner-of-death...

jimmymac
47303
Points
jimmymac 06/26/14 - 10:38 am
0
0
OMG
Unpublished

Fiat you're absolutely right. This man must have a rock in his chest instead of a heart. The only reason he went back to the car at lunch time was to see if the poor child was dead already. This is so disgusting on so many levels that they should just skip the trial and burn him at the stake.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Sickness closes all McDuffie County schools

One day after closing an elementary because of excessive absences caused by an outbreak of influenza, strep infection and stomach viruses, the McDuffie County School System has decided to enact an ...
Search Augusta jobs