Evidence

After police report dad's Web searches and sexting, judge OKs murder case in toddler's hot-car death


A Georgia man who contended he forgot his toddler was in the back seat of the vehicle he left parked at work for seven hours on a sweltering day last month visited a “child free” website and researched “how to survive prison” and how a hot-car death occurs before the 22-month-old died in his car seat of overheating, police said.

Later, when he was told he was being charged with the boy’s murder, Justin Ross Harris, 33, said “there was no malicious intent,” a detective told a Cobb County judge on Thursday. Detective Phil Stoddard also said Harris and his wife, who is not charged, had two life insurance policies on the boy that provided a total of $27,000 in coverage, and contended that Harris showed no emotion over his child’s death when interviewed by investigators, according to the Associated Press, the Nation Now page of the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) and WXIA.

However, a defense witness at the suburban Atlanta hearing said Harris was very upset when he discovered his son’s dead body in the car after his work day concluded, the AP reports. “He was saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, my son is dead, oh my God,’” Leonard Madden testified.

The purpose of the hearing was to lay out the state’s case so that a judge could decide if the state has probable cause to pursue the criminal case and decide whether to grant bond. The government argued that Harris is a flight risk and focused on his alleged sexting to as many as half-a-dozen women on the same day his son was dying, among other behavior portrayed by authorities as not consistent with a caring father who accidentally caused a child’s death, the Times reports.

“We plan to show he wanted to lead a child-free life,” assistant district attorney Chuck Boring told the judge.

By the end of the day, the judge had determined that there was probable cause and denied bond, WGCL reports.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Dad charged with murder after toddler’s death in hot SUV researched the topic online, affidavits say”

CNN: “Hot-car death highlights key role of digital evidence”

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