Shocking new details emerged at the Atlanta probable cause hearing of Justin Ross Harris on July 3, where a judge denied bond for the father accused of murdering his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by intentionally leaving him locked inside a hot SUV for seven hours while the dad was at work on June 18. Three hours of 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.
Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard testified yesterday that while baby Cooper was dying in that SUV baking in the hot Georgia sun, 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.”
Ross Harris "stated that he recently researched, through the Internet, child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur," police have said, adding that Harris told investigators "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.
The defense maintained that Harris simply 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. Prosecutor Chuck Boring said:
"I think it's remarkable he didn't stick his head in that car."
"He knew what he was going to find."
USA Today reported Stoddard as testifying to the belief that Harris was a flight risk. Stoddard also testified that the evidence against him showed intent, adding that the allegedly murderous father has family in Alabama.
At the end of the three hour hearing, Cobb County Chief Magistrate Frank Cox determined that there was ample evidence to hold Harris over for trial on murder and child cruelty charges. The judge denied bond and declared that probable cause was evident in Cooper’s death.
"For him to enter the car ... when the child had been dead and rigor mortis had set in, and the testimony is the stench in the car was overwhelming at that point in time, that he -- in spite of that -- got in the car and drove it for some distance before he took any action to check on the welfare of his child, I find there is probable cause for the two charges contained in the warrant," Cox told a packed courtroom.
At Cooper’s funeral, Harris’ wife Leanna said that she still loved her husband, isn’t angry with him, doesn’t blame him for her baby’s death, and plans to stand by him, adding that “Ross is and was and will be, if we have more children, a wonderful father. Ross is a wonderful daddy and leader for our household. Cooper meant the world to him."