Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia father who left his 22-month-old son, Cooper, unattended and locked inside a SUV baking in the hot Georgia sun for seven hours on June 18, was indicted on Sept. 4 in a Cobb County courtroom for his baby boy’s murder. Harris will be tried on charges of malice murder, felony murder, cruelty to children, and five additional felonies which could net him the death sentence, according to The Atlantic Journal-Constitution.
Previous testimony directed by the prosecutors in the case painted a picture of an unfaithful husband who led a double life and wanted to lead a child-free life. Harris had pleaded not guilty to his charges, saying he simply forgot that he left his baby in the car.
The defense also maintained that their client just forgot to drop Cooper off at daycare that day, and forgot that he was in the back seat. Prosecutors argued that Harris received an e-mail from Cooper’s daycare that day, and that Harris actually went to the car at one point during Cooper’s seven hour confinement to place light bulbs inside the vehicle.
Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard testified that while baby Cooper was dying in that SUV, Harris was sexting with several women, one of whom was underage, according to CNN. Allegedly, while Harris was working on June 18, he sexted with six different women, “sending and receiving explicit texts -- some including nude images,” all why his son was dying in an overheated car.
Stoddard also shared the Internet searches and some research made by Harris on his computer. Those searches included reading several articles on being “child-free,” and included a search on how to survive in prison. Police say that both Harris and his wife, Leanna Harris, searched for “how hot a car needed to be to kill a child.” Harris said he made that search because "he was fearful that this could happen."
Stoddard also talked about his initial interviews with the accused dad, saying that Harris was worried about losing his job, had been recently passed over for a promotion at work, and that Harris had two life insurance policies taken out on his son,”… one for $2,000 and one for $25,000.” The detective also shared the mom’s reaction to arriving at Cooper’s child care center on June 18, only to discover that Cooper never arrived at day care that day.
"Ross must have left him in the car," she replied, according to the detective.
Witnesses said they tried to tell her many other things could have happened, but Leanna Harris insisted that Ross Harris must have left the boy in the car, Stoddard said.
No charges have been filed against the mother, according to NBC News. Harris will remain in a Cobb County jail and held without bond.
Today’s indictment also included a few charges against Harris not directly related to Cooper’s death. The Cobb County grand jury charged him with sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors. According to the indictment, “Harris allegedly requested a nude photo of a female minor and also sent her explicit photos.” For more on the story of Cooper's death, see the video accompanying this article.