Expert says memory wouldn't cause parents to leave kids in cars

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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Could a father forget he left his child in his vehicle for seven hours? It is one of the biggest questions surrounding the death of Cooper Harris, the toddler who died in a hot SUV in June.

Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh spoke to a medical expert Monday who says the length of time the child was in the car could be difficult to explain.

"All of us can be distracted and we can lose information that was in working memory,” clinical and neuropsychologist, Nick De Filippis said.

However, he said it often comes back, quickly.

De Filippis made no assertion about the guilt of innocence of Ross Harris, the Cobb County father accused of leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot SUV.

He did say that the amount of time Cooper Harris was left in the car is tough to explain away. Police charged Harris with felony murder, alleging he intentionally left his son for seven hours.

"It's very easily retrieved just by thinking about that or having a reminder, having a cue about what they were supposed to do," De Filippis said.

DeFilippis said a cue could be him seeing a photo of the child, a phone conversation, or a sound the child made during the car ride that day.

Channel 2 Action News previously retraced and timed the trip Harris made the morning his son died.

It was less than two minutes from the fast food restaurant where he and his son ate breakfast to his office parking lot where Cooper Harris was left.

Police testified Harris spent part of his workday sexting various women.

He was having as many as six different conversations with different women, Cobb County detective Phil Stoddard testified earlier this month.

DeFilippis said it is hard to imagine nothing triggered a reminder about his son during the allotment of time.

"The more important the information that you're holding in your short term memory, the less likely it is that you will forget it,” he said.

DeFilippis said mental illness, brain impairment, and injury that affects working memory could impact short-term memory.

No evidence related to those topics has been presented in the case thus far.


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