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Father Charged in Hot-Car Death Sobs in Call to Son's Funeral

Justin Ross Harris left his 22-month-old son in the back of a sweltering SUV while he was at work for seven hours.
Image:  Justin Ross Harris and his son Cooper
Justin Ross Harris and his son Cooper. Facebook via WXIA

The father charged with murder for leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car called in to his son’s funeral Saturday from a jail 200 miles away and broke down sobbing.

Justin Ross Harris was blocked by jail officials in Georgia from attending the funeral for the boy, Cooper Mills Harris. His words were unintelligible, but he remained on the phone as his wife addressed him and the hundreds of mourners who had packed into Tuscaloosa University Church of Christ in Alabama.

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"Am I angry with Ross? Absolutely not,” said Leanna Harris. “Ross is and was and will be — if we have more children — a wonderful father," she added. Her declaration was met with applause.

The mother said the toddler had spent the last two nights of his life snuggled in bed with the couple, and she missed him “with all of my heart.”

Harris did not shed a tear during her eulogy. “I should be crumpled in a heap ... but the Lord is holding me up,” she said.

She also credited God with providing her husband peace, saying, “Cooper meant the world to him.”

Warrants released Saturday revealed that Harris had researched child deaths in vehicles and “what temperature it needs to be.” He told police that he was nervous he might accidentally leave his son in the car, as he did for seven hours while he was at work on June 19.

Police have said Harris’ actions do “not point toward simple negligence."

A man who addressed Harris as “son” said that no one “worshipped and adored” the child more than his doting mother and father. “Ross, everybody here loves you dearly,” he conveyed over the phone.

Cooper's bright red casket — a color he had just learned to identify — was carried into the church against gray skies. His obituary said he would call out to his mother and father as they passed red cars: "Bye red car, bye red truck." The service was to be followed by a private burial.