Father Indicted in Toddler's Death in Hot SUV
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
A Loudoun County man who left his 21-month-old son inside a sport-utility vehicle on a hot day this month has been indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury on a manslaughter charge, and he made his first court appearance yesterday. He was then taken into custody and later released on bond.
The attorney for Miles Harrison, 49, of Purcellville said Harrison had gone directly from a psychiatric hospital to the Fairfax courthouse. Police said Harrison discovered his newly adopted son, Chase, dead inside his GMC Yukon more than nine hours after he had arrived July 8 at his office on Herndon Parkway in Herndon.
Fairfax authorities obtained a manslaughter warrant for Harrison but did not serve it because he was hospitalized almost immediately for psychiatric observation. The Fairfax grand jury met Monday and handed up the indictment. The day after the Fairfax grand jury meets is called "term day," when indictments are unsealed and defendants appear in court to hear the charges and be given a trial date.
Harrison waited in the audience with his family until his case was called. Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Ian M. Rodway asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Marcus D. Williams to set a $10,000 bond for Harrison.
Peter D. Greenspun, Harrison's attorney, asked that Harrison be released on a pledge to reappear in court. Williams noted that the charge was manslaughter. "The issue is: Was it an accident?" Greenspun said.
"Mr. Harrison literally came from the hospital here today," Greenspun continued. "He's doing okay, but he's still pretty fragile."
Williams set bond at $5,000, and Harrison was handcuffed and taken out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies. Harrison did not speak during the brief arraignment. Greenspun declined to comment afterward.
Harrison posted the bond and was released yesterday afternoon, Fairfax jail officials said.
Police said Harrison had adopted the boy from Russia three months earlier. According to court documents, Harrison told police that he left his home in Purcellville about 6:45 a.m. July 8. He apparently had intended to drop the child at a day-care center.
Harrison arrived at his office, Project Solutions Group, and left Chase in the back seat, police said. The temperature reached a high of 90 degrees, which one expert estimated would have made the temperature about 130 degrees in the Yukon.
A co-worker reported that someone went to the company's front desk about 5 p.m. and asked whether something was inside Harrison's car. He ran outside and found his son, police said.
Herndon police have since obtained search warrants for Harrison's Yukon, backpack, home and home computers. Greenspun said that Harrison had no motive or malice and that the case was simply "a tragic accident."