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10 shocking revelations in the hot car death hearing

NEED TO KNOW
  • Justin Ross Harris sits stoically while prosecution describes his infidelity, desire to have ‘child-free’ life
  • Harris has pleaded not guilty to murder after his son was left in a hot car for hours
  • Lead investigator testifies as prosecution lays out its case against Harris during Thursday's hearing
10 shocking revelations in the hot car death hearing

Retrace dad’s footsteps day of hot car death

Most shocking moments in hot car death hearing

Most shocking moments in hot car death hearing

A Georgia judge denied bond for Justin Ross Harris on Thursday and ruled that prosecutors had enough evidence to move forward in their case against the father, whose 22-month-old son died from hyperthermia after being left in a hot car for hours last month.

Harris is currently behind bars, facing charges of second-degree cruelty to a child and felony murder. He has pleaded not guilty and says he forgot to drop his son off at day care on the morning of June 18.

“It’s easy to get distracted when you get behind the wheel. Everyone’s done it. His mind is already skipping ahead to the rest of the day,” defense attorney Maddox Kilgore told the judge Thursday. “We forget things in a moment -- that’s how we forget things.”

Here are 10 shocking details that emerged from the hearing:

It was allegedly a routine morning for dad and son:

The prosecution’s lead investigator, Phillip Stoddard, testified that Harris was the one who dropped his son off at day care in the mornings. Stoddard also said that Harris and his son, Cooper, would stop by Chick-fil-A a couple of times a month.

“It’s daddy/son time -- a special occasion to them," Stoddard said. His description suggests that Harris wasn’t breaking his normal routine that morning.

It took less than a minute for Harris to allegedly forget his son:

Stoddard timed the trip from the Chick-fil-A parking lot to the turn Harris had to make to go to his son’s day care. It was about 0.6 miles and took 30-40 seconds, according to Stoddard.

Harris told police that, after he straps Cooper into his car seat, he "always gives him a kiss in case he gets into a car accident and dies,” according to Stoddard. So in less than a minute, Harris would have gone from kissing his son to forgetting to drop him off at day care.

Cooper’s head would have been visible over the car seat:

The 22-month-old had outgrown his rear-facing car seat, according to Stoddard. Investigators put a mannequin, which was smaller than Cooper, into the seat and said they were able to see the mannequin’s head over the top of the seat.

When Harris arrived at work, he backed up before parking in his spot. He had no backup camera, according to Stoddard, and would have had to look in his mirrors (or turn around) to see behind him.

Bizarre actions following the incident:

A witness who performed CPR on Cooper after Harris stopped his car and pulled the boy’s body out, described Harris as “messing around” on the scene, according to Stoddard.

Stoddard also had this to say about Harris’ behavior at the police station (where he was being watched on camera): "He started off trying to work himself up... He’s walking around, rubbing his eyes. It looked like he's trying to hyperventilate himself... no tears, no real emotion coming out except for the huffing as I would put it."

Chilling statements by husband and wife:

Harris became emotional when his wife arrived at the police station, according to Stoddard: “It was all about him: ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me. Why am I being punished for this?’ It was all very one-sided,” Stoddard said. “He talked about losing his job… ‘What are we going to do? I’ll be charged with a felony.’”

According to Stoddard, Leanna Harris later asked her husband, "Did you say too much?"

Justin Ross Harris also described Cooper to his wife as peaceful with his eyes closed, when this wasn't the case, according to Stoddard. He allegedly also told his wife: "I dreaded how he would look." Stoddard stressed that Harris used the past tense.

Injuries found on the boy’s body:

Stoddard said there were “marks on the child’s face. It would have come from the child or a scratch being made while the child was alive and then not healing or scabbing over or anything after that, soon after he passed away.”

There were also abrasions to the back of the boy’s head, according to Stoddard.

Harris was sexting while his son was dying:

During the day, while at work, Harris was having conversations with up to six different women, according to Stoddard. Explicit photos were exchanged, with Harris even allegedly sending a picture of his erect penis to a 16-year-old girl, according to Stoddard.

Financial troubles and life insurance policies:

The couple had $2,000 and $25,000 life insurance policies on their son, according to Stoddard, who also said Harris’ wife “was complaining about [her husband’s] purchasing, sporadic purchasing or overcharging credit cards.”

More disturbing Internet activity:

Harris visited a subreddit about “people who die,” which shows videos of people dying (suicide, executions, war, etc.). He also visited a subreddit called child-free and searched the Internet for “how to survive in prison” and “age of consent for Georgia.”

“We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Stoddard in regards to the searches police have done on Harris’ computers.

Harris is completely deaf in his right ear:

The defense brought this point up several times, perhaps in order to help explain why Harris may not have been able to hear that his son was still in the car.

“I always have to go to the other side of his head to talk to him,” Harris’ friend, Winston Milling, testified.

Stoddard said Harris never relayed this information to him.

HLN is live-blogged Thursday's hearing. Read below for the updates (best read from the bottom up):

4:36 p.m. ET: The judge has denied the defense’s request for bond. Harris is led out of the courtroom as everyone is dismissed.

4:35 p.m. ET: The defense has called Penny Harrison, a children’s pastor at Harris' church, to the witness stand. She says she has known Harris and his wife for about two years.

“I knew him to be at typical, loving father of a toddler,” Harrison said. She says he has support at church and that she believes he would show up for court if he were released on bail.

The prosecution asks her if she knows he was sexting with other women. She says no and that "I know him in a church setting and that's all."

4:30 p.m. ET: The defense calls Randy Michael Baygents, Harris’ brother, to the witness stand.

“He was a loving father,” Baygents said about his brother, getting emotional. “He loved his son very much. We went on family vacations together and he was a good dad.” Harris wipes his eyes.

The prosecution says that Harris has been breaking the law by sexting with underage girls. Baygents says he didn't know about this but still believes his brother wouldn't commit a crime if released on bail.

4:24 p.m. ET: “I found there’s probable cause for the two charges contained in the warrant,” Judge Frank Cox tells the court. They're now moving on to the bond part of the hearing.

4:22 p.m. ET: Prosecutor Chuck Boring is now addressing the judge telling him “the evidence is overwhelming.”

4:18 p.m. ET: “It’s easy to get distracted when you get behind the wheel. Everyone’s done it. His mind is already skipping ahead to the rest of the day,” Kilgore said. “We forget things in a moment – that’s how we forget things.”

Kilgore says people forget their kids in the car, which is why the governor has instituted a “look again” campaign.

“The results of that forgetting… were absolutely catastrophic,” Kilgore said. “But an accident doesn’t become a crime because the results were catastrophic.”

Harris is visible crying as Kilgore speaks.

4:13 p.m. ET: Kilgore says the sexting information was only introduced to “publicly shame” Harris: “It’s not like his family hadn’t been through enough already.”

4:08 p.m. ET: The defense addresses the prosecution's sexting allegations from earlier:

4:02 p.m. ET: Defense attorney Kilgore is now arguing why Harris shouldn’t face charges.

"There’s no evidence Ross was aware that child was in the car. Why in the world would he bring his colleagues right up to the car? It makes no sense at all," Kilgore tells the judge.

4:00 p.m. ET: The defense has called another one of Harris’ friends, Winston Milling, to the stand. He also went to lunch with Harris on the day his son died and says everything appeared normal.

“He loved showing Cooper off to everybody. He liked picking him up, bringing him around. He was always happy, Cooper was always smiling,” Milling said.

When asked about Harris’ deafness in his right ear: “I always have to go to the other side of his head to talk to him.”

3:47 p.m. ET: There are no more questions for Hall. The judge says court has been going for two hours now and dismisses everyone for a five-minute recess.

3:46 p.m. ET: "I saw a tear go down Ross's cheek as witness described how much he loved his son." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

3:45 p.m. ET: “He said he loved his son all the time. He said his son was very important to him,” Hall said. The prosecution begins its cross-examination and asks Hall if he knew that Harris was sexting women all day. Hall says no.

"You don’t know everything about Mr. Harris, do you?" Hall shrugs.

3:41 p.m. ET: They bought light bulbs during lunch and Harris dropped them off at the car before returning to work.

“I drove as close as you would reasonably to drop somebody off at their car,” Hall said.

3:39 p.m. ET: The defense has called another witness to the stand, James Alex Hall. He works with Harris, the two went to college together and they also own a business together. Hall drove to lunch with Harris on the day his son died. When asked how Harris was acting that day: "I wouldn’t say abnormal in any way. I’d say normal as you can be. Nothing stuck out, nothing was weird."

3:36 p.m. ET: Harris has leaned over three times during Madden's testimony to wipe his eyes.

3:34 p.m. ET: Madden admits that he has watched media coverage of the case before testifying. He also said it took police 20-30 minutes to arrive but the prosecution says police arrived immediately. No one else has questions for this witness and the judge excuses him.

3:29 p.m. ET: "I felt his pain. I even wept and mourned his son and I’ve never even met him," Madden said, describing Harris' reaction as "genuine" and "organic." The prosecution is now cross-examining the witness.

3:28 p.m. ET: An officer told Harris to step back, according to Madden. Harris allegedly told the officer to "shut up." The officers put Harris in handcuffs.

3:26 p.m. ET: The defense has called a witness to the stand, Leonard Madden.

"When I got closer, I thought it was a doll. And about three or four feet away, I noticed it was the body of a toddler. Right then my heart dropped because I saw this precious boy laying there lifeless," Madden said. "The father, Mr. Ross, had just given his child CPR and about two other people came near to assist. As I got closer, you could just hear his cries and his desperate for his son to be revived. He was saying, 'Oh my god, oh my god. My son is dead. Oh my god, my son is dead.' It sounded as if he was saying it out of hurt and disappointment, desperation. He was yelling, he was hollering, he was screaming."

3:20 p.m. ET: The defense has finished its cross-examination of Stoddard. The judge wants to know how long between the time Harris left work and stopped to pull the boy out of the vehicle. Stoddard says five or size minutes. The judge also wants to know the normal morning routine. Stoddard says Harris would take Cooper to daycare in the mornings. The couple would split picking the boy up in the afternoons. Mom worked from home. 

3:15 p.m. ET: The couple bought a forward-facing car seat a few weeks before their son's death but the mom had it in her car at the time. The detective earlier testified that Cooper had outgrown the limits on the rear-facing car seat he was in when he died.

3:09 p.m. ET: Harris' wife "is still attentive during this questioning. She is also chewing gum." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

3:07 p.m. ET: Harris searched "dozens and dozens and dozens" of topics on the Internet, according to his attorney. He asks Stoddard if he has any evidence that Harris typed in a search for "child free," and Stoddard says no, he doesn't (Harris got to the site somehow but Stoddard's not sure how exactly). "How to survive prison" was a specific Google search, but Stoddard isn't sure when it was made (he doesn't have the dates yet).

3:03 p.m. ET:

3:00 p.m. ET: Harris is completely deaf in his right ear, according to his attorney, Maddox Kilgore. Stoddard says Harris didn't tell him that.

2:56 p.m. ET:

2:55 p.m. ET:

2:49 p.m. ET:

2:38 p.m. ET: Stoddard agrees with the defense that a grieving father could show a “range of emotions from outrage to blankness.”

2:37 p.m. ET:

2:28 p.m. ET: The child was likely dead before noon, according to Stoddard. The defense has begun it’s cross-examination of the detective.

2:26 p.m. ET: Harris never called 911 said "f**k you" to a police officer who asked him on the scene to get off his phone.

2:25 p.m. ET: The prosecution has ended its questions related to probable cause. They’re now addressing the issue of bond and whether or not Harris is a flight risk. Stoddard says yes: “He’s got this whole second life that he’s living with alternate personalities and alternate personas which would also make him a flight risk and harder to keep track of if needed.”

2:24 p.m. ET: Harris said he was afraid of leaving his child in the car and told investigators he was an advocate of the "turn around" program. Stoddard viewed a video twice where a veterinarian sits in a car and shows how hot it is. He watched it five days before his son's death.

2:20 p.m. ET: Harris visited a subreddit about “people who die,” which shows videos of people dying (suicide, executions, war, etc.)

He also visited a subreddit called child-free: “They advocate not having any more children and adding to the biomass I guess is the best way they put it,” Stoddard said.

Harris also searched “how to survive in prison” and “age of consent for Georgia.”

When Stoddard told him they were charging him, Harris allegedly responded by saying, “but there’s no malicious intent.”

2:17 p.m. ET: The couple had a $2,000 and a $25,000 life insurance policy on their son. Harris’ wife “was complaining about his purchasing, sporadic purchasing or overcharging credit cards.”

2:16 p.m. ET: One of the girls he was texting with asked him, “Do you have a conscience?” and he responded, “Nope.”

2:14 p.m. ET:

2:11 p.m. ET: Harris' wife told police the pair were having intimacy issues, according to Stoddard. There are texts to indicate that she knew he was cheating on her.

"We plan to show that he wanted to live a child-free life," the prosecution tells the judge.

2:09 p.m. ET: Stoddard said several injuries were found on the toddler’s body: “Marks on the child’s face. It would have come from the child or a scratch being made while the child was alive and then not healing or scabbing over or anything after that, soon after he passed away.” There were also abrasions to the back of the boy’s head, according to Stoddard.

During the day, Harris was having conversations with up to six different women, according to Stoddard, who said explicit photos were being exchanged.

“We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Stoddard in regards to the searches done on Harris’ computers.

2:02 p.m. ET: Harris became emotional when he was with his wife at the police station: “It was all about him: ‘I can’t believe this is happening to me. Why am I being punished for this?’ It was all very one-sided,” Stoddard said. “He talked about losing his job… ‘What are we going to do? I’ll be charged with a felony.’”

According to Stoddard, Leanna Harris later asked her husband, "Did you say too much?"

Justin Ross Harris also described Cooper as peaceful with his eyes closed, when this wasn't the case, according to Stoddard. He allegedly also told his wife: "I dreaded how he would look."

1:59 p.m. ET: Leanna Harris, the mom, went to pick up Cooper from daycare that day. They told her he was never dropped off. On her way out, she told witnesses: “Ross must have left him in the car… there’s no other explanation. Ross must have left him in the car.” Stoddard says they tried to console her but, “She’s like, ‘No.’”

1:57 p.m. ET: Stoddard describes Harris' demeanor following the incident: "He started off trying to work himself up... He’s walking around, rubbing his eyes. It looked like he's trying to hyperventilate himself... no tears, no real emotion coming out except for the huffing as I would put it." Stoddard says he never saw tears from Harris when he talked about his son.

1:53 p.m. ET: During the day, Harris received an e-mail from daycare: "He received a group email from his teacher, Cooper's teacher... and that email came in around 1:30 p.m.," said Stoddard.

1:51 p.m. ET: Harris didn't tell investigators he returned back to his car during the day, according to Stoddard. Investigators made the discovery when reviewing surveillance footage. He made a quick stop at the car to drop off light bulbs.

1:49 p.m. ET: Harris backed up his car when he arrived at work (before parking), according to Stoddard, who says Harris didn't have a backup camera and would have had to use his rearview and side mirrors (or turn around). Harris reached over the center console to grab his laptop in the passenger seat, according to Stoddard. Investigators used a mannequin in the car seat and found that the boy's head would have been visible over the top of the car seat. Harris sat in his car for 30 seconds before exiting the vehicle.

1:45 p.m. ET: It took 30-40 seconds for Stoddard to get from Chick-fil-A to the stoplight where Harris would have had to turn to go to daycare instead of work. Harris told investigators he had no distractions (like a phone call) on his way to work, according to Stoddard.

1:43 p.m. ET: "His excuse was he fell asleep," Stoddard said, referring to Harris. Stoddard says the boy seemed to be alert and fine at Chick-fil-A. Harris described how he would strap Cooper into his car seat and how he "always gives him a kiss in case he gets into a car accident and dies." Harris told investigators he wanted Cooper's last memory to be that daddy loved him.

1:41 p.m. ET: When Harris pulled into a parking lot after leaving work, witnesses described seeing him pull in at a high rate of speed, tires squealing.

"He seemed upset, his behavior was considered erratic," Stoddard said. "He would be yelling and screaming, 'Oh my god what have I done, my child is dead.' And then he would stop and he’d just have a blank look on his face."

A bystander started CPR on the toddler and described Harris as "messing around."

1:36 p.m. ET: After work that day, Harris was planning to go see a movie with friends -- "22 Jump Street," according to Stoddard.

1:35 p.m. ET: Stopping by Chick-fil-A is also not out of the ordinary for Harris and his son: "Justin stated that this happens two or three times a month. It’s daddy/son time – a special occasion to them," Stoddard said.

The distance from Chick-fil-A to work is 0.6 miles -- "Not even a mile," says Stoddard.

1:33 p.m. ET: There was nothing out of the ordinary on the day Cooper Harris died: "The child was doing great," Stoddard said. He also tells the judge that Justin Ross Harris normally took the boy to daycare, so this wasn't out of his normal routine.

1:30 p.m. ET: Detective Phil Stoddard is on the stand. He says the cause of Cooper Harris' death is hyperthermia and the manner of death is homicide.

1:29 p.m. ET: Harris is in the courtroom and the judge reads the charges against him. Harris' wife, Leanna, appears emotional, according to producers inside the courtroom.

1:27 p.m. ET: The judge is on the bench.

1:25 p.m. ET:

1:18 p.m. ET:

1:15 p.m. ET: "A lot of security in the courtroom. Six deputies. Local attorney says it is usually two, sometimes three." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

1:11 p.m. ET:

1:09 p.m. ET: "Leanna is holding hands with the woman sitting next to her. Appears as if it could be her mother." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

1:05 p.m. ET: "Leanna Harris (the toddler's mom) has entered the courtroom. She is in the row behind me along with other family members." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

1:04 p.m. ET: "Courtroom is open and almost filled to capacity. A court deputy says the front row is being reserved but would not say for whom." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

12:54 p.m. ET: Have questions about the case? Tweet them to @HLNonthecase.

12:48 p.m. ET:

12:46 p.m. ET: Just confirmed: The prosecution witness who will be testifying at today's hearing is Phillip Stoddard with the Cobb County Police Department.

12:44 p.m. ET: The hearing is expected to start at 1:30 p.m. ET. HLN will bring you live coverage from inside the courtroom.

12:43 p.m. ET: "About 45 people are gathered outside the courtroom waiting for the doors to open. It is a mix of media and a few court watchers." -- HLN producer Natisha Lance

12:24 p.m. ET: HLN's Vinnie Politan is outside the courthouse. Check out how close today's proceedings are to Harris' church:

 

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