Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia dad whose 22-month-old son died after being left in a hot car, was indicted by a grand jury Thursday on multiple murder charges. The eight charges include malice murder and felony murder, as well as cruelty to children. Harris, 33, told investigators that he forgot about his son, Cooper, while he went to work June 18. After more than seven hours, Harris said he only remembered the boy in his SUV after leaving work.
Prosecutors, however, say he intentionally left the boy in the car because he wanted a "child-free life" and had even researched child deaths in hot vehicles on the Internet. Harris has pleaded not guilty to the initial charges and remains in jail. His wife, Leanna Harris, released a statement last month saying she was heartbroken over the loss of her son, but that the public shouldn't rush to judgment. Prosecutors say the couple was having problems in their marriage, and that Justin Ross Harris was leading a double life by sexting with six other women.
“The rush to judgment by the public and mainstream media has left me with little confidence in our legal system and our society,” Leanna Harris said in an earlier statement. No charges have been filed against her.
The Cobb County grand jury indictment against Harris also includes a criminal attempt to commit a felony (sexual exploitation of a minor) and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors. Those charges are not directly related to his son's death, and claim that Harris allegedly requested a nude photo of a female minor and also sent her explicit photos.
Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said at an afternoon press conference that his office would be making a decision on seeking the death penalty in the next few weeks. He also noted that "whether (the investigation) leads to anyone else remains to be seen."
Later, Harris' defense lawyer said that his client was doing terribly and called the child's death a "gut-wrenching accident."
"He's lost his son, his livelihood, his freedom. He's basically lost everything," said attorney Maddox Kilgore. "Right now, Ross is a very broken guy."
— Gabe Gutierrez and Hasani Gittens
First published September 4 2014, 8:46 AM