‘Hot car dad’ indicted for murder by Georgia grand jury

A Georgia grand jury has indicted Justin Ross Harris on eight counts, including malice murder and felony murder in the hot-car death of his 22-month-old son. (Reuters)

A Georgia man who authorities believe left his toddler to die in a hot car on purpose will stand trial for murder, a grand jury decided Thursday.

Justin Ross Harris was indicted on eight counts — including malice murder — in connection with the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, who died in a sweltering car in June.

“This was another step in the process,” Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said in a statement. “We look forward to this case running its course and ultimately justice being served.”

Reynolds said Harris would likely be in court for arraignment in two or three weeks.

A defendant can face a felony murder charge whether a death was intentional or not, Cobb County spokeswoman Kim Isaza said in an email. A charge of malice murder alleges intent.

Young Cooper Harris reportedly spent hours buckled in a car seat in a Hyundai Tucson before he was discovered. His father told police that he drove to work after having breakfast with his son, forgetting to leave him at day care.

“The death of my son is still unreal,” Cooper Harris’ mother, Leanna Harris, wrote in a victim impact statement obtained by CNN. “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 with words or emotions. I now live a tortured existence.”

At a hearing in July, a Cobb County police detective testified that Harris had conducted an Internet search for how to survive in prison and traded nude photos with women on the day his child died, the Associated Press reported.

“I think the evidence now is showing intent,” Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard said.

A telephone message left with Harris’s attorney was not immediately returned Thursday. Reynolds said his office has not yet decided whether it will seek the death penalty. He noted that the investigation is ongoing.

Harris Indictment by sarah_larimer

More than two dozen children have died in hot car incidents across the country this year, according to Jan Null, who keeps statistics on hot car incidents.

Those deaths include:

• A 10-month-old girl died after spending about two hours in a hot car in Kansas. A crying baby on the TV series “Game of Thrones” reminded her foster parent that she was still in the Dodge Charger.

• A 3-year-old boy who was playing with a dog in South Carolina became trapped in a car with the animal and died.

• A 4-year-old in Texas died after climbing in an unlocked truck with her sister, age 3. The girls’ father was working doing chores around the house and thought his daughters were asleep.

RELATED READING:

Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? — Gene Weingarten’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Post Magazine feature from 2009.

Automakers never developed technology to stop hot car deaths. Parents and teens are doing it instead.

This post has been updated.

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