The mother of the Georgia toddler who died inside an overheated SUV nearly two months ago opened up about the heartbreak of losing a son, and about what she called a “rush to judgment” over the resulting investigation. Leanna Harris’s husband, Justin Ross Harris, was charged with murdering their 22-month-old boy, Cooper. “I now live a tortured existence,” Leanna Harris wrote in a victim impact statement that was provided to NBC News.
Authorities in Marietta alleged that the 33-year-old father wanted to live a “child-free existence,” as described by a Cobb County detective. The police have said that prior to the boy’s death, Harris, who pleaded not guilty, researched child deaths inside hot vehicles on the Internet — and that his wife did the same. Leanna Harris has not been charged and has not been named a suspect.
“Whatever issues transpired in our marriage is between God and us,” she wrote in the statement. “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 lost a consulting job “due to the media,” she wrote, and “as of 8/1/14 I have been out of work 43 days.” She added that the “storm” around her family had prevented her from grieving, and that “Ross was a wonderful father” who “loved Cooper with all of his heart.”
The victim impact statement was provided to Leanna Harris by the Cobb County District Attorney, a fact that her lawyer, Lawrence Zimmerman, said indicated "that they're looking at her in that regard." But the district attorney's office called it standard procedure. "We're required by law to send those forms to all victims or a victim's next of kin," said Kim Isaza, a spokeswoman.
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— With Reporting by Tim Stelloh