After making national headlines over the summer by leaving his young son in a hot car, causing the child to die from heat stroke, on Thursday morning Justin Ross Harris appeared in a Marietta, Georgia courtroom and learned of the charges he will be facing. Among the eight charges he received are malice murder and two counts of felony murder.
The other five counts include cruelty to children in the first degree, cruelty to children in the second degree, criminal attempt to commit felony exploitation of children, and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors. CNN notes that the murder charges carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Harris, 33, was arrested on June 18 after leaving work and returning to his car and finding that his 22-month-old son Cooper had passed away after sitting in the car for several hours. Temperatures are said to have reached 90 degrees that day. Harris was reportedly supposed to drop off Cooper at daycare before work but says he forgot and claims the death was an accident. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, suspect premeditation and are arguing that Harris wanted to live “a childless life.” According to ABC News, a search warrant has revealed that Harris researched the topic of child deaths inside cars on the Internet, as well as “what temperature it needs to be for that to occur.” Police say Harris explained that he had done the searches because he was “fearful that this could happen.” Harris’ wife, Leanna Harris, also made statements about researching car deaths and though she has not been charged with a crime, she has hired a separate attorney.
Other allegations against Harris include the accusation that he was sexting with multiple women, including one minor, during the workday while Cooper was still in the car. Those allegations are what led to the two counts of dissemination of harmful materials.
A news conference in which Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds will discuss details of the case is scheduled for 3 p.m. local time on Thursday. Harris has been held without bond since being arrested in June.