Detective: Evidence shows intent in Georgia toddler’s hot car death


Cobb County police investigate an SUV where a toddler died June 18, near Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ben Gray)

A 33-year-old Georgia man who authorities believe left his toddler in a hot car on purpose had previously researched how to survive in prison and spent the day of his son’s death sending nude photos, a detective said Thursday.

“I think the evidence now is showing intent,” Cobb County Police Det. Phil Stoddard said at the hearing for Justin Ross Harris, according to the Associated Press.

Justin Ross Harris (AP Photo/Cobb County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department)
Harris (AP Photo)

Harris is charged with murder in connection with the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. A judge Thursday denied bond, AP reported.

Harris told police that he drove to work on June 18 after having breakfast with his son, forgetting to drop off the toddler at day care. Cooper Harris remained buckled in his car seat for hours, according to reports. Justin Harris discovered Cooper in the backseat of the Hyundai Tucson that afternoon.

According to the Associated Press, Stoddard on Thursday said Harris didn’t show much emotion while he spoke with authorities after his son’s death, though a witness for the defense disagreed, according to reporter Carol Robinson, who was tweeting from the courtroom.

From the Associated Press report:

Stoddard testified at a hearing that evidence showed Justin Ross Harris was practically leading a double life and should not be granted bond. Stoddard described the evidence police have suggesting Harris, who is charged with murder, killed his 22-month-old son Cooper intentionally.

Harris and his wife had two life insurance policies for the toddler, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000. Furthermore, Harris’ wife had become unhappy with her husband’s spending habits, Stoddard said.

According to AP, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore said the evidence had no bearing on Harris’s intent. Harris cried in court at one point, AP reported.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was also posting live updates.

You can read Gene Weingarten’s 2009 feature on leaving children in hot cars here: Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.
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Sarah Larimer | July 3