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    Hot Car Case Tag

    In the summer of 2014, Justin Ross Harris left his 22-month-old son Cooper in the car for seven hours as he went to work. Harris claimed he forgot to drop Cooper off at daycare, but prosecutors revealed he sexted with numerous women, including the day his son died. A grand jury indicted Harris in September 2014. On Tuesday, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark sentenced Harris to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    The Georgia father whose 22-month old son died after being left in a hot car earlier this summer was indicted Thursday and charged with murder. A grand jury indicted Justin Ross Harris on eight counts including malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children in the first and second degree. In addition, the indictment included counts of criminal attempt to commit a felony and dissemination of harmful material to minors, in relation to allegations that Harris had been exchanging sexually explicit messages with an underage girl. Justin Ross Harris has maintained that he forgot to drop off his son Cooper at day care on the morning of June 18th, and that he had not realized his son was still in the car as it sat in the parking lot where he worked. Cooper died that day after sitting in the car for several hours in high temperatures while still strapped in his car seat. At a probable cause hearing in July, the prosecution by contrast painted a portrait of a father who intentionally left his son in the car because he wanted to live a “child-free life,” referencing various online searches and viewing activity. Among that activity was alleged evidence of Harris having viewed articles posted in a “childfree” sub-forum of the popular internet site Reddit. Also referenced were allegations that Harris watched a public service announcement video about hot car deaths, and that both Harris and his wife had researched hot car deaths online. Cobb County, Georgia police Detective Phil Stoddard also testified during the July hearing that Harris was allegedly sexting with other women – including one who was underage at the time – in the weeks before and on the day of Cooper’s death.

    It was less than three weeks ago when Cobb County, Georgia police detective Phil Stoddard sat on the witness stand in the probable cause hearing in the case of Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia dad who stands accused of leaving his son to die in a hot car in June. Stoddard provided testimony at the July 3rd hearing that described Harris’ online activities, including details that Harris had viewed information about hot car deaths and visited a Reddit page devoted to child-free living. The detective also indicated that Harris had allegedly sexted with several women during the day as his son died. Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told the judge during that hearing, “We plan to show he [Harris] wanted to lead a child-free life.” Also considered pertinent testimony from Stoddard during that hearing was the description of surveillance video from the parking lot of the Home Depot office where Harris worked. But an independent review by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of that surveillance video and other evidence presented in the case shows some potential discrepancies in what had been described by detective Stoddard.

    The mother of the toddler who died last month after being left in a hot car by his father says she is mourning the death of her child and asks that she be allowed to grieve privately, away from the eye of reporters. A statement earlier this week from the attorney representing Leanna Harris said the mother of 22-month old Cooper Harris “is living every parent's nightmare,” and also criticized the media for fostering a “poisonous atmosphere in which Leanna's every word, action and emotion - or failure to cry in front of a crowd -- is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning.” Harris hired Cobb County, Georgia defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman last week, though she has not been charged in the case and has not been named as a suspect. Zimmerman compared Leanna Harris’ situation to that of Richard Jewell, the man who was working as a temporary security guard during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing and was wrongly implicated as a suspect then later cleared. It was Jewell who had spotted the bag that contained the bomb, then moved visitors away from the area and alerted authorities. But Jewell had become the subject of intense media focus throughout the ordeal. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on Thursday that Harris and her attorney have also asked to meet with Lin Wood, the attorney who represented Jewell in his subsequent libel cases against several media outlets.

    The case against Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia dad who stands accused of leaving his 22-month old son to die in a hot car, has captured the attention of the media and the public since more details were revealed in a probable cause hearing late last week. New documents released on Monday provide additional insight into where the investigation may be focused. From USA Today:
    A new series of search warrants in the case of a 22-month-old Georgia boy who died while in a hot car last month show a focus on the electronic trail leading up to his death. The warrants made public by the Magistrate Court of Cobb County on Monday morning show Cobb County Police investigators looking into electronic devices found inside Justin Ross Harris' 2011 Hyundai Tuscan. A thumb drive, an external hard drive, a SD card, and a DVD-R were all taken into police custody. According to the warrants, all of the items will be searched for "information pertaining to finances, credit card debt, business information, life insurance, emails/communication regarding child, wife, and family issues, photos/videos of the child to show development, information about car seat searches, searches regarding car deaths, communications with other people on the days leading up to and the incident date, information on life insurance policies."
    What initially seemed to be a case in which many could conceivably believe it was a tragic accident took a different turn last week and has expanded into a digital expedition of online searches, videos and tawdry text messages. It was during the probable cause hearing last Thursday that the public learned 33-year old Ross Harris was allegedly sexting with other women - including one who was underage at the time, as his son sat in a sweltering hot car, according to the testimony of Cobb County, Georgia, police Detective Phil Stoddard.
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