“Hot Car Dad” Justin Ross Harris has been charged with murder in the death of his son after a Georgia grand jury indicted him. Cruelty to children was also added to the charges after Harris appeared in court to hear the jury’s verdict. The hot car death of his 22-month-old son will now go to court and, if convicted, Harris could face the death penalty.
The Atlanta-area Harris family suffered the loss of their 22-month-old son, Cooper, who was left in his car seat in the family’s SUV in the parking lot of Harris’ workplace. The story becomes convoluted as authorities accuse the Hot Car Dad of not only causing the death of his son, but doing so without remorse as he pursued sexually-explicit messages and an apparent attempted relationships with women from his computer in his office.
The New York Times reports that Harris faces charges not only for the hot car death of his son, but also for dissemination of harmful material to minors for sending a nude photograph of himself to the underage girl. Declining to comment, the Cobb County District Attorney said only that he was pleased with the result.
“The indictment speaks for itself.”
The defendant, however, responded (via his lawyer) with what he says is “just the truth.” The Hot Car Dad’s attorney says that the story is not as complicated and “doesn’t need a flow chart to follow.” It was an accident, he says, not a malicious plan to get rid of their son.
The Los Angeles Times outlines the five charges levied against the Hot Car Dad in the death of his son:
- One count of malice murder,
- Two counts of felony murder, and
- Two counts of cruelty to children.
The hot car death charges also extend to other charges relating to his sexual misconduct, amounting to three further charges.
- Two counts of disseminating harmful material to minors and
- One count of attempting to sexually exploit children.
It’s these last two charges that have largely quelled the public support Harris once had as the accidental “Hot Car Dad.” The New York Daily News reports that although he’d received massive support in the form of signatures on a petition hoping to stop the hot car death charges, those quickly stopped when the grand jury’s hearing included child sex charges.
The stories of what happened that day differ greatly. The hot car death charges have the story of a dad who thought of his son as a “burden” and was only worried about getting caught once the child was discovered to have died. They show him, according to video surveillance in the parking lot, going out to the car at least once during the day before leaving work and discovering Cooper was dead. That evidence, they say, shows that he knew the boy was in the car and also his bizarre behavior after discovering the boy’s death.
Harris tells the story differently, saying that he took Cooper to a Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and had planned to drop him off at day care before going to work. He forgot Cooper was in the back seat, saying the boy might have fallen asleep and so was quiet, and drove to his job, leaving the boy inside the SUV. He found the boy seven hours later when he left work.
The case is now headed to court where it will be tried and where the prosecutor could pursue the death penalty now that the hot car death charges are levied.