ATLANTA — A Georgia man charged with murder after his 22-month-old son died in a hot SUV searched online for information about kids dying in cars and told police he feared it could happen, according to documents released Saturday.
The warrants released by the Cobb County Police Department provide more insight into the investigation of Cooper Harris’ death on June 18.
Justin Ross Harris, 33, has told police he was supposed to drive his son to day care that morning but drove to work without realizing that his son was strapped into a car seat in the back.
In an interview after his son’s death, Harris told investigators that he had done an online search on what temperature could cause a child’s death in a vehicle.
“During an interview with Justin, he stated that he recently researched, through the Internet, child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur. Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen,” one of the four warrants stated.
Harris also told police he was on his way to meet friends after work when he realized his son was in the back seat and pulled into a shopping center to get help, according to the warrants.
Harris is charged with murder and second-degree child cruelty in his son’s death, and remained in jail Saturday as family members held a funeral for the boy in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Harris called the ceremony from jail and emotionally thanked people for their support since his arrest hours after the boy’s death, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“(Cooper) never did anything to anyone,” Harris said. “I’m just sorry I can’t be there.”
The boy’s mother, Leanna Harris, made her first public comments about her son’s death and the charges against her husband during the funeral.
“Ross was and is a wonderful father,” Harris said to the applause of about 250 mourners, according to the newspaper.
Police have said facts in the case “do not point toward simple negligence.” A previously released arrest warrant stated that Harris stopped with his son for breakfast and returned to put something inside his car during the day while the child was still inside. The Cobb County medical examiner’s office said Wednesday that it believes the cause of Cooper Harris’ death was hyperthermia and manner of death was homicide.
The temperature that day was 88 degrees at 5:16 p.m., according to a warrant filed the day after the child died.
Police searched the Marietta, Ga., condo where the family lives, looking for a laptop, electronic devices, documents, photographs and any “evidence of child neglect, child abuse.” They also searched Harris’ cellphone and the 2011 Hyundai Tucson that he was driving when his son died.
Police said in the warrants that they were searching for trace evidence including hair, fingerprints, blood or DNA inside the car and any computers, electronic devices or paperwork “related to the crime of homicide and cruelty to children.”
In an obituary published last week, the child’s family said Harris and his wife, Leanna, were “the most proud parents there could ever have been.”
Cooper Harris loved trucks and cars, had just learned the color red and was a happy baby, it read.
“His 22 months of life were the most happy and fulfilling times of his mother’s and father’s lives, and we will miss him greatly,” the obituary read.