After pleading not guilty to leaving his 22-month old son Cooper in a hot SUV for seven hours back in June saying “it was an accident,” a Georgia grand jury indicted Harris on eight charges Thursday that include malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children.
CNN reported the grand jury issued the malice murder charge alleging that Harris premeditated Cooper’s killing. If indicted, it is possible Harris will face the death penalty. Harris is currently being held without bond since the incident. The other five charges include first-degree cruelty to children, second-degree cruelty to children, criminal attempt to commit a felony (sexual exploitation of a minor) and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors.
The indictment states the grand jury found that on June 18, Harris "did unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, caused the death of Cooper Harris ... by placing said Cooper Harris into a child car seat and leaving him alone in a hot motor vehicle."
According to the New York Post, authorities found evidence that Harris looked up how hot a car needed to be to kill a child and a website advocating a child-free lifestyle. Other allegations by Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard during his testimony at the hearing allege Harris was in his office at Home Depot texting on his cellphone and exchanging nude photos with several women at work on the day his son died.
The criminal warrant issued against Harris states that he left home to go to his job as a Web developer for Home Depot in Atlanta after placing Cooper in a rear-facing car seat in his 2011 Hyundai SUV. The warrant states he went through a fast-food restaurant, however instead of dropping Cooper off at his daycare, he drove to work and left Cooper strapped to his car seat. The warrant also alleges Harris went to his SUV during lunch to put something in it as the temperature on that day topped out at 92 degrees making the car soar past 100 degrees.
According to detective Stoddard, a witness to the incident that day, told police he was standing with a blank look on his face on the other side of his SUV when he starting hysterically crying. “He was hollering,” Madden testified saying Harris kept hollering “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! My son is dead!”
In a strange twist concerning the incident, People magazine obtained a victim’s statement from Cooper’s mother Leanna Harris in which she insists that Cooper’s death was accidental. "Ross was a wonderful father and he loved Cooper with all of his heart," she wrote. "Because I saw how he treated our little boy for 22 months, I know without a doubt he would never have knowingly allowed any harm to come to our son. I want you to know what a loving father he was."
Leanna also seemed forgiving about allegations concerning her husband’s illicit online behavior with a teenager and other online advances towards other women. "Whatever issues that transpired in our marriage is between God and us, for He will judge those moral sins," she wrote. "The rush to judgment by the public and the mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society."
However, Leanna said in the statement she has been going through a very difficult time without her family and that she has been seeing a counselor for her grief due to the loss of her child and my husband saying that treatment will likely last the rest of her life.
"The death of my son is still unreal," Leanna said. "Not a moment goes by when I don't think about him or what our future would have held. The amount of grief this has caused is indefinable. It cannot be explained in words or emotions. I now live a tortured existence. I depend on my Lord for strength and guidance."