Updated: 10:04 a.m. Saturday, June 28, 2014 | Posted: 4:19 a.m. Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Father suspected in toddler's death researched child deaths in hot cars

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Justin Ross Harris and his son Cooper photo
Justin Ross Harris and his son Cooper
Sources: Ga. father knew toddler who died was left in hot car

WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COBB COUNTY, Ga. —

More details are coming out concerning the death of a Georgia toddler, left in a hot SUV for hours last week. 

The Cobb man accused of leaving his toddler son in an SUV for seven hours researched child deaths inside vehicles, new documents released Saturday morning revealed.

Justin Harris has been held without bond at the Cobb County jail since the night of June 18, hours after 22-month-old Cooper Harris was declared dead in a shopping center parking lot. In addition to murder, Justin Harris has also been charged with second degree child cruelty, also a felony.

“During an interview with Justin, He stated that he recently researched, through the internet, child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur,” according to search warrants obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen.”

— Please return to ajc.com and wsbtv.com for updates.

 

This is a developing story, check back for updates. Below is the original story compiled from reports from WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

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Original story: The father of a Georgia toddler found dead in the back of an SUV last week knew the child had been left in the vehicle, sources told WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday.

That information differs from Justin Ross Harris’ initial statements to police, including that he mistakenly left his son in his car seat while he went to work on June 18. Harris, 33, said he only realized the boy, Cooper Mills Harris, was in the back seat when he was driving away from his job at a Home Depot corporate office, police said at the scene.

>> RELATED: Police: Father who left child in hot car charged with murder

Harris was charged with murder and cruelty to children in the first degree in connection to the child’s death. He spent his sixth day Tuesday in the Cobb County jail, where he’s being held without bond.

WSB-TV's Jodie Fleischer broke new developments in the case on Twitter just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The new developments have left many who witnessed the incident wondering what they saw last week.

Artikya Eastland said she saw Harris abruptly pull his SUV into the parking lot of a small strip mall and pull the lifeless body of his small child from the back of the vehicle.

>> RELATED: 'I’ve killed our child,' dad screams over tiny body

"He just screamed, ‘What have I done,’ loudly. Obviously, it was a bit dramatic. He had his hand up in the air, up towards the sky. ‘What have I done’ type of thing,” Eastland said.  “That I won’t forget for a while.”

Prosecutors met Tuesday to look at that SUV again, WSB-TV reported. They would not comment on their findings.

Eastland said everyone thought it was a terrible accident. She isn’t sure if Harris’ emotions were sincere or a cover.

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“As far as what exactly happened, why it happened, that I don’t know,” Eastland said. “I’m hoping at the minimum of course that it was an accident. But I really don’t know how to answer that one.”

Autopsy results

Medical examiners said the death of Cooper Mills Harris is consistent with hyperthermia.  They are waiting to make a final ruling to cause and manner of death until toxicology results come in. 

Hyperthermia happens when a person's temperature rises and remains higher than 98.6 degrees.  Outside temperatures on June 18 were in the low 90s.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the inside temperature of a car can rise an average of 19 degrees within 10 minutes.

Harris' father, Justin Ross Harris, has been charged with murder and second-degree child crulety.    

According to a warrant filed Wednesday, Harris placed his 22-month-old son, Cooper, in a rear-facing car seat after they ate at a Chick-Fil-A near his office the morning of June 19. Harris then drove the short distance to his office, less than a mile, the warrant said.

The warrant also says Harris was seen going out to his car and opening the driver's door to place something in his car at lunch.

 

The child's funeral will be held Saturday in Alabama.   

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