• Ross Harris' ex-wife gives tearful testimony in hot car death trial

    By: Hope Jensen

    GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. - Ross Harris’ ex-wife cried on the stand as she recalled the day their 22-month-old son, Cooper, died.


    Day 17 Quick Facts

    • Defense called Harris' ex-wife, Leanna Taylor, to the stand
    • Taylor described Cooper as the "sweetest little boy"
    • She said Harris was proud of their son and loved spending time with him
    • Taylor said she did not know the extent of Harris' relationships with other women
    • Taylor and Harris cried as she talked about the day Cooper died
    • Defense played home videos of Cooper and Harris
    • Taylor shut down when prosecutors began cross-examination

    Harris is accused of killing the toddler by intentionally leaving him inside a hot car for nearly seven hours. He is facing eight charges, including malice murder.

    The defense called Leanna Taylor to the stand Monday.

    Taylor and Harris were married for nine and a half years and divorced in February. Taylor described Harris as a loving father, who enjoyed spending time with his son.

    Channel 2’s Ross Cavitt and Carl Willis are in Brunswick, where the trial is being held. They will have updates from inside the courtroom on Channel 2 Action News.

    "He wanted to be the one to push him on the swing. He wanted to be the one to slide down the slide with him. He wanted to be with him enjoying every second with him," she said.

    Harris cried in court as he listened to Taylor talk about their child.

    Taylor said although Harris would sometimes get frustrated with Cooper, as any parent does with a toddler, he never express malice or anger or hatred toward his son. She told jurors that Harris was proud of Cooper and loved to show him off.

    "Cooper was the sweetest little boy. He had so much life in him," she said.

    Harris’ ex-wife talks about marital problems

    Taylor said their marital problems began in 2008, when Harris told her he had a problem with pornography, and they went downhill from there.

    Two years later, she found sexual text messages on his phone and confronted him about it. She said they then met with their pastor and set up a program on his phone that would track websites that he went to and send it to an accountability partner.


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    In 2013, they began seeing a marital counselor once a month. Later that year, she said she found another text message on his phone and they had one of their biggest fights. At one point she offered him a divorce and he said, “That's the last thing that I want."

    She said despite their intimacy problems, they got along well and were great co-parents.

    Taylor admitted on the stand that she did not know that Harris was cheating on her or had met with multiple women, including a prostitute, to have sex.

    She also said she was not aware of the extent of his sexting or relationships with other women.

    "If I had I would have divorced him then. I would have left,” she said.

    Leanna Taylor recounts the day her son died

    Taylor said on June 18, 2014, around 4 p.m., she spoke on the phone to her husband about who was going to pick Cooper up from day care. Harris told her he was heading to a movie and so she agreed to pick him up.

    Less than 20 minutes later, Harris pulled Cooper’s body from the back of his car.

    Taylor said she arrived at the day care and went to check Cooper out of the computer system, but he had never been checked in. She went back to his room, where the teacher told her, "Cooper's not here. He didn't come today." 

    She said she went into a panic.

    "I was starting to lose my ability to understand what was going on. It didn't make sense. Cooper was supposed to be at day care. I was supposed to be the one to pick him up. It didn't make sense," she said fighting back tears.

    [READ: Detective says Ross Harris' wife is not a suspect in son's hot car death]

    Taylor went to the front desk and began talking with a man who worked there. She said the only thing that made sense to her, based on what she knew that day, is that her husband must have left him in the car. She told the man at the front desk that she wanted to go to Harris’ office to find his car.

    "The only thing that made sense to me, with everything I knew that day, Ross must have left him in the car. That was the only thing that made sense. That was the only thing that clicked in mind as a remote possibility. He was never checked in and if he was never checked in he must have forgot," Taylor said.

    She said she called Harris every two to three minutes but never got him on the phone. Just as she went to call police, she said a detective called her and told her to stay put. She said she asked what was going on but he wouldn’t answer her.

    "I said, 'It's bad, isn't it?' And he said, 'Yeah, it's bad,'" she said.

    She said when detectives arrived and told her what happened, she couldn’t cry and didn’t understand why.

    "I didn't understand. It wasn't real. Sometimes it still doesn't feel real," she said through tears.

    Leanna Taylor explains comments that made her a suspect

    Taylor said that as soon as she arrived at police headquarters, she tried to stay calm because, "I knew I needed to be strong for Ross."

    She said she tried multiple times to find out where her son was, but couldn't get an answer.

    Taylor said she wasn't aware that her conversation with Harris was recorded at the police station until much later.

    "It was like somebody else took over my body," she said. "Everything was foreign when I went back and watched that."

    She said in all their years together she had never seen Harris that broken.

    "It was very difficult to see him like that. That's not a side of Ross I've seen that often. To see him that broken and just beside himself ... It was just raw," she said.

    Taylor addressed the statement she made to Harris asking, "Did you say too much?" She said she didn't understand why he was being charged and the only thing she could think was, "What did you say (to make them want to charge you)?"

    "He talks a lot even if he doesn't have anything to say," she said.

    Taylor also described her "irrational" fear of leaving a child in a car, saying it all came from seeing PSA's and watching the news.

    "I didn't have a reason to fear this. Nothing had ever happened to make me fear this," she said. 

    She said she told that to detectives.

    Taylor said when she finally got home that night, she didn't want to go into her house.

    "It was like I knew if I went into my house it would be real and I didn't want it to be real," she said.

    When she finally did, she said she went straight to Cooper's room, crawled in his bed and just cried.

    Jurors see pictures, videos of Cooper

    Harris cried in court as the defense scrolled through photos of him with Cooper from his birth until just weeks before his death.

    Photo from court shows the Harris family on vacation at the beach. Jurors were shown dozens of photos of the Harris family through the years.
    Photo from court shows the Harris family on vacation at the beach. Jurors were shown dozens of photos of the Harris family through the years.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    The defense then played a handful of home videos of Cooper and Ross.

    Taylor teared up as she watched the videos play on the screen.

    Some jurors laughed and others cried as they watched the videos of Cooper smiling and laughing just weeks before his death.

    She told jurors that Harris lover Cooper "very much."

    State cross-examines Leanna Taylor

    Testimony became very tense Monday afternoon when prosecutors began to cross-examine Taylor. Taylor did not give many direct answers, and prosecutors seemed to get frustrated at times.

    Prosecutors said Taylor had no idea about the double life Harris was leading.

    "I would agree that I did not know the depth," she said. "I didn't know. I absolutely didn't know. I knew that we had problems in our marriage but ... I didn't know what he was doing."

    Despite that fact, Taylor said she wasn't completely surprised by his actions.

    Leanna Taylor is cross-examined on Oct. 31, 2016.
    Leanna Taylor is cross-examined on Oct. 31, 2016.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    "I can't sit here and say that I was absolutely shocked to find out that he had gone outside of our marriage," she said.

    Taylor said Harris didn't tell her anything because he knew that if he cheated on her, she would leave him.

    When prosecutors asked why it took her so long to file for divorce after she found out about his affairs, she said, "I didn't know what to believe."

    Prosecutors will continue their cross-examination of Taylor at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

    You can watch the entire trial LIVE on WSBTV.com/Ross-Harris-Trial. We will have minute-by-minute coverage as well as a daily summary from the courtroom each day. Like Ross Harris Updates on Facebook and follow @RossHarrisTrial on Twitter for updates throughout the trial.

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