Both mother and father of toddler who died in hot car searched Internet on child deaths in cars

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(CNN) – Leanna Harris, the mother of a Georgia toddler who died locked in a hot car, has told authorities that she researched such deaths and how they occur, according to a police affidavit.

Her husband, Justin Ross Harris, the child’s father, who is in jail without bond, has also told police that he used the Internet to research child deaths in vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for death to occur, police said.

“Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen,” the police affidavit said.

In the document released Sunday, police say that during questioning Leanna Harris “made similar statements regarding researching in car deaths and how it occurs.”

The time frame for when this alleged research took place remains unclear.

Their son, Cooper Harris, who was 22 months old when he died June 18, was buried after a funeral Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Leanna Harris emphatically told a crowd at her son’s funeral she loves and stands by her husband, even though he is charged with murder in the child’s death.

“Am I angry with Ross?” Leanna Harris said Saturday. “Absolutely not. It has never crossed my mind. Ross is and was and will be, if we have more children, a wonderful father. Ross is a wonderful daddy and leader for our household. Cooper meant the world to him.”

Police said Justin Ross Harris told them he forgot to drop his 22-month-old son at the day care center before going to work. The boy died after spending seven hours in a child safety seat in the back of an SUV.

Harris was arrested hours after his son’s death and has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and second-degree child cruelty.

The affidavit was filed in the application for a search warrant used to seize computers from the Harris home.

A timeline of events

On the day Cooper died, his father stopped for breakfast at a fast-food restaurant and afterward strapped his son into a rear-facing child restraint seat on his SUV’s back seat, police said.

He drove to his workplace, a Home Depot corporate office, about a half-mile away. He works as a Web designer there.

Usually, he would take his son to an on-site day care. But that day, police said, Harris left him in the car seat.

During his lunch break, he returned to his car, opening the driver’s side door to put something inside, police said.

After work, around 4:16 p.m., the 33-year-old father got in his car and drove away. A few miles away, he stopped the car at a shopping center and called for help.

When it became clear Cooper was dead, Harris was so inconsolable police had to restrain him.

“What have I done?” he wailed as he tried to resuscitate the boy.

The Cobb County medical examiner’s office found the child’s cause of death “consistent with hyperthermia and the investigative information suggests the manner of death is homicide,” according to a Cobb County Department of Public Safety statement issued last week. Temperatures hit 92 degrees Fahrenheit on the day of Cooper’s death.

The medical examiner’s office is waiting for toxicology test results before making an official ruling as to the cause and manner of the toddler’s death.


  • dawnc

    the mother needs to be arrested for murder too because she was part of the plan. I just don’t understand it because if they didn’t want the child they could have just given him to someone else or drop him off at a hospital or a fire station.What they did was planned and horrible!

    • Momof9inVA

      you can’t leave a child that old at an ER or Fire station under the safe haven laws, that has to be done withing I think 72 hours of discharge from birth. They could have, however, told a family member they couldn’t handle the responsibility or they could have called DCF or the police and said that they needed to surrender their parental rights to the boy. I”m sure someone out there would have adopted him without question. If, in fact, they were in on this together they both need to rot in a jail cell. Of course I tend to lean more toward being locked in a hot car until they suffer the same death as that poor baby. If this is proven to be a homicide and not an “accident” they, or the one responsible, should not be allowed to have another child. Personally I don’t see how it’s an accident. We have 9 kids and have never left anyone in the car, check the car every time you get out, even if you know for a fact that you didn’t have any kids with you!!

  • Joe Dunmire

    Did the parents research how long it would take for a child to die in a car from hypothermia if the outside temperature was 20 degrees F or just how long hyperthermia would take? Why would anyone even leave a child this young in a car no matter the temperature or reason? It says the father would usually take his son to an on-site day care.” Once one has a repetitive routine, it is usually hard to break it so I don’t believe he forgot his son was in the car. With regard to “during his lunch break, he returned to his car, opening the driver’s side door to put something inside” leaves me to believe he was checking to see if the little boy was yet deceased.

    • Dawnc

      Tina I don’t think there would be a problem finding a home for the child no matter what his color of hair or eyes or skin. Joe,yes both parents looked on the internet about how long it would take for death to occur. Not very smart. I wish they could put both of them in a hot box for a while and see how they like it,I hope they get what they deserve!

  • Lynda Whitaker Land

    How horrible! I know I raised a child, and as much and as much as I worried and second-guessed myself while raising them, I never once wondered, “Gee, how long would I have to leave them in the car for them to die?” Never. Not once. I looked up how high their temp could be before I needed top take them to the ER, I looked up rashes or questions about brain development and height and weight charts, but NEVER did I research how long I could leave her in the car before she’d be dead. THAT is sick, and not even a believable cover story. Let them both die the same way their poor son had to.

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