The death investigation continues in the case of the Cobb County father changed with child cruelty and felony murder after leaving his 22 month old son in hot car where the child died. 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris made his first court appearance Thursday night at the Cobb County Jail, and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Harris works at the Home Depot headquarters and was supposed to have dropped his son, Copper, off at the company’s onsite daycare center Wednesday morning. He told police he forgot his son was strapped in the backseat of the SUV and did not notice the child until he was heading home around 4 p.m. Harris pulled off the road at Akers Mill Square shopping center on Cobb Parkway, and witnesses say he tried to revive the little boy but it was too late.
Police say the child spend 7 hours in the hot car. The temperature was 88 degrees outside the vehicle. Cobb County Police are not giving many details at this point and are sticking to the very serious charges even with the father’s explanation that forgot his son was in the back of the vehicle.
According to the arrest warrant posted on 11Alive.com, the document specifically states that Harris was charged with Cruelty to Children in the First Degree which is a felony and relates when a person willfully deprives the child of necessary sustenance to the extent that the child’s health or well-being is jeopardized. The warrant goes on the state and explain the felony charge of Murder.
But at great debate among many people in the community, and even under discussion among legal experts, is the question of did the Justin Harris “willfully” intend to harm his child. Attorneys discussing the charges on local television stations Thursday all have said that there has to be proof that Harris “willfully or maliciously” intended to leave the child in the back of the car. Some attorneys even say they are very surprise by the charges in this tragedy.
What is clear is that Cobb County investigators are not ready to rule this case as an accident. Authorities are awaiting for the results of the autopsy and following up on additions leads and interviews.
In the meantime, a Facebook petition is gaining attention as it calls for the charges against Harris to be dropped.
Justin Ross Harris remains in the Cobb County jail without bond, and a bond hearing has been set for July 15th.