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Dad in Hot-Car Death Was 'Sexting' With Other Women, Police Say

Justin Ross Harris told police that he forgot about his 22-month-old son who had been strapped in the back seat of his SUV while he was at work.
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The suburban Atlanta father accused of killing his toddler son by leaving him inside a hot SUV for hours had been sending nude photographs to women the day his son died and had looked at websites that promoted a life without children, a detective testified Thursday.

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Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, who is charged with murder, was in an unhappy marriage and wanted a "child-free life," said Cobb County Det. Phil Stoddard.

A judge denied a $50,000 bond and ruled there was probable cause to move forward with the case. The man will remain in jail.

Harris' 22-month-old son Cooper was found dead in the back seat of the family SUV on June 18. The father claims he drove to work and didn't realize his son was strapped in the back into a car seat.

But Stoddard testified that Harris had been leading a double life, sexting with several women, including a 17-year-old girl. He and his wife also had two life insurance policies for the toddler.

But defense attorney Maddox Kilgore said the lewd texting doesn't constitute evidence of his client's alleged wanton disregard for his son.

"There's nothing per se nefarious about it in this context," Kilgore said, adding that there is no evidence showing that Harris knowingly left Cooper in the car seat.

“An accident doesn't become a crime because the results were catastrophic,” he added.

While his attorney spoke, Harris started to cry and wiped tears away with a tissue.

Winston Milling, who went to college with Harris and also interned with him at Home Depot, testified that the defendant was a loving father.

"He was always happy, Cooper was always smiling,” he said, adding that he had gone out to lunch with Harris and a third individual the day the boy died and noticed nothing out of the ordinary about his friend's behavior.

— with reporting by Erik Ortiz