Dad Charged with Murder for Leaving Toddler in Hot Car Faces New Charges

Justin Harris has been charged with murder for leaving his 22-month-old son Cooper in a hot car June 18, 2014. Patch file photo.
Justin Harris has been charged with murder for leaving his 22-month-old son Cooper in a hot car June 18, 2014. Patch file photo.
Authorities have filed new charges against Justin Ross Harris, the 34-year-old Georgia father charged with murder for leaving his toddler in a hot car. Cooper Harris Smith, 22 months, died on June 18 after being left in the hot car for seven hours while his father went to work.

This case has made national news and here is what some Connecticut residents are saying about it:

Mark Rixon of Sandy Hook, CT said:

"There is zero tolerance for neglect. I know that if I left a cold beverage in my car for more than five minutes, it will be warmed up. Now a child at 98.6 degrees to raise to 104 degrees is murder. I know damn well when my dog is inside of my vehicle, I have never left him in there unattended without the A/C running."

Barbara Disraeli of Yonkers, NY said:

"It does seem odd that the daycare didn't call and he went back to his car at lunch and never noticed his child."

Daycare provider Jane Vizi of Bethel, CT said:

"If a child doesn't come to daycare. I give the parents a call, text and email to see what is going on and why they are not here yet. My parents in daycare tell me if they will be later than normal coming with their child, but I always contact them to see. There is no protocol or state law that you have to call to find out if a child is not at daycare, so is up to the provider on what they do and how they proceed. As a daycare provider you always want to know where the children are."

The CDC offers these tips to parents and caregivers of children remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, when outside temperatures range from 80 to 100 degrees, the inside temperature of a car parked in direct sunlight can reach between 130 to 172 degrees in a matter of minutes. The temperature inside a closed car rises up to 20 degrees higher than outside temperatures during the first 10 minutes that the car is left in the sun, according to the CDC.

WFSB reports that police released new warrants Saturday that revealed Harris had researched child deaths in vehicles on his work computer using the search term, “what temperature it needs to be” for a child to die in a hot car. Harris is charged with felony murder and now faces a second-degree cruelty to children charge.

A Patch report states that the unfortunate incident of forgetting a child in a car can happen from people from all walks of life. The issue with the Harris case is that police found evidence on both parents' computers that lead them to believe baby Cooper's death was not accidental.

Harris told police the reason he searched those terms on his computer was because he was nervous he might accidentally leave his son in the car. Patch reports the toddler's mother, Leanna Harris, also researched hot car deaths as well. Leanna Cooper has not been charged.

The Cobb County Medical Examiner's Office completed an autopsy on the toddler June 19 and concluded the cause of death of was hyperthermia.  The investigation states the manner of death is homicide. The medical examiner is waiting for toxicology results before making an official ruling as to the cause and manner of death. 

Little Cooper was laid to rest Saturday, June 28, in Alabama. 

Regina Smiley July 01, 2014 at 10:22 AM
By the mother admitting she searched for information about a child dying in hot car too should not create reasonable doubt for the father. Rather, this should implicate her to the murder too. It seems that the couple planned this together and they should both be charged in the child's death.
Dave July 01, 2014 at 05:13 PM
Or he could have used both computers.
Amy S. July 01, 2014 at 07:29 PM
What could have been the motive? Did the child have a life insurance policy taken out on him by one or both parents?
Donna Trufant Grogg July 02, 2014 at 04:19 PM
Yes, I want to know why they are not questioning the mother more? It was said she did a search also. Does this not raise serious eyebrows. Unbelievable. Am so disgusted
KD Q July 17, 2014 at 09:35 AM
The husband did more than just that search... he also was researching things such as 'child-free living', 'age of consent'...I mean he was sending suasage pics to mutliple other women and one that was 16 or 17 years old... clearly this marriage was not doing well. AND to top if off, if you had just looked up hot temps in cars, wouldnt it still be fresh in your mind or at least in the back of your head? I know after i look something up I keep remembering it for weeks later.... theres no way he nonchanlantly 'forgot' his own child in the car.


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