The Washington Post

Tragic baby death in hot car in Herndon in 2008 continues as political issue in Russia

No one disputes that the horrible death of toddler Chase Harrison, left sitting inside a sport-utility vehicle in Herndon in July 2008, was a terrible accident. His parents, including a father prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter, told the heart-wrenching tale of repeated, difficult trips to distant parts of Russia to adopt the child, and everything they’d done to love him. All of that preceded Miles Harrison’s distraction one morning, which led him to forget the child in the back seat after their drive from Purcellville.

Chase Harrison was 21 months old when he died in July 2008. His father was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. (Family photo)

Bringing Chase/Dima, who was 21 months old when he died, back into the Russian political arena is being hotly debated in Russia. But this case, which I covered from the start, had nothing to do with Russia or disrespect for its people. It was a fully unintended, completely regretted act by a father who was devastated by his action and wanted nothing but the best for his new son. To watch him at trial, a daily ball of raw emotion, was a difficult thing. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terence Ney, a very thoughtful and well-respected judge, made a difficult decision in finding Miles Harrison not guilty, over the argument that this was simply inexcusable neglect, whatever the reason.

Washington Post Magazine writer Gene Weingarten read our early stories on the case and had this thought about Miles Harrison, “I could have done that.” Then he learned that other parents had accidentally left their children in hot cars as well. Emphasis on accidental. So he wrote about it, and his story won a Pulitzer Prize. You can read that here.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.


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