WASHINGTON, June 28, 2014 — Police in Cobb County, Georgia, say Justin Ross Harris admitted researching the deaths of children left in hot cars before he left his own son, 22 month old Cooper, to die in a hot vehicle.
Harris told police in a search warrant, according to CNN, that only days before Cooper died, he did Internet searches to find out about children who had died in hot cars. According to the search warrant, Harris admitted he specifically checked on the temperature of cars when children died. He told police he was “fearful” this could happen.
According to Cobb County arrest document, Harris is charged with felony murder and second-degree cruelty to children after he allegedly left Cooper strapped in his child seat in a hot car.
Harris said he forgot to drop his son off at day care that morning.
An autopsy released on June 25 showed that Cooper died from hyperthermia, after his body reached an elevated temperature.
Kidsandcars.org reports that on average, 38 children die each year from being left unattended in a hot car.
An article published in Pediatrics in July of 2005 found that with an external temperature of 86°F the temperature inside can rise to as high as 154°F. The researchers found that the temperature rose an average of 3.2°F every five minutes, with 80 percent of the maximum temperature being reached within just 30 minutes. Even at a “cool” 72°F, the vehicle reached a whooping 117°F. They even tested the effects of leaving the car windows cracked one and a half inches. The results were negligible.
Left in these conditions, a child’s body temperature soars resulting in hyperthermia, or an abnormally high body temperature, which can result in death. While the excess heat can affect anyone, infants can succumb even quicker due to their inability to regulate their body temperature. Their smaller body mass also means that they can get hotter quicker than a larger person.
Harris has pleaded not guilty.
However, new details continue to raise questions about the events of the day.
Harris said he forgot to drop his son at daycare that day.
According to the arrest warrant, Harris and Cooper at breakfast at Chick-fil-A. Harris then placed his son in his car seat. Instead of turning to the day care, Harris went straight to work.
Harris told police that during the three minute drive, he forgot Cooper was in the car.
At 4:16pm, Harris left work and proceeded toward home. He did not, according to police, go toward Cooper’s day care.
Harris told police that he then realized his son was “incapcacitated” in the car.
However, according to police reports, there are indications that Harris went to his car at least once before he discovered Coopers “lifeless body” in the back seat. Police further stated they do not believe the death was an accident.
Harris has no previous criminal record. He was employed at Home Depot at the time of the incident, and has worked for the University of Alabama and the Tuscaloosa, Alabama police department.
Cooper’s mother, Leanna Harris, has not been charged.