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Facts Will Show Death of Kid in Hot Car Not Negligence, Says Top Cop

Justin Ross Harris

Justin Ross Harris, the father of a 22-month-old left in an SUV, has been charged with murder and cruelty to children in the first degree. Cobb County Police Department

A Georgia police chief said Wednesday that the evidence in the case of a 22-month-old boy left to die in a hot car "does not point toward simple negligence," as court documents revealed the father returned to the vehicle while the child was baking in it.

Justin Ross Harris was charged with murder in the June 19 death of his son, Cooper. The medical examiner said the death was "consistent with hyperthermia and the investigative information suggests the manner of death is homicide."

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Harris, 33, was supposed to have brought the toddler to daycare in the morning before his 9 a.m. work shift started.

Instead, according to a newly released warrant, he took the child to breakfast at a Chick-fil-A near his office in suburban Atlanta and then went to work.

"During lunch said accused (Harris) did access the same vehicle through the driver's side door to place an object into the vehicle," the warrant said. "Said accused then closed the door and left the car, re-entering his place of business."

Around 4 p.m., Harris left his job and was driving home in his Hyundai Tucson when he claims he realized his son was still strapped in the car seat, officials said.

He "hopped out of the driver's seat, opened the back door and laid [the child] on the concrete and tried to resuscitate him," one witness told WXIA.

Witnesses told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Harris was screaming: "What have I done? What have I done? I’ve killed our child."

Harris pleaded not guilty to felony murder. A charge of cruelty to a child was bumped down from first-degree to second-degree.

Cobb County Chief of Police John Houser did not spell out exactly what evidence police have to support the charges.

"I understand that tragic accidents similar to this one do occur and in most cases the parent simply made a mistake that cost them the life of their child," he said in a statement.

"This investigation, although similar in nature to others, must be weighed on its own merit and the facts that lead our detectives to charge the father must be presented at the appropriate time during the judicial process.

"The chain of events that occurred in this case does not point toward simple negligence and evidence will be presented to support this allegation."

NBC News' Hasani Gittens contributed to this report.