A new twist in the Justin Ross Harris case will bring his alleged infidelities and marital problems into the courtroom.
Harris is charged with felony murder in the death of his 22-month-old son Cooper in 2014. Cooper Harris died after his father left him alone in a hot car in Cobb County, Georgia. Now, the judge in the case has ruled the state can use evidence of Harris' marital infidelities in court, including sexually explicit texts allegedly sent to minors. The trial starts April 11.
Harris was indicted in early March on two counts of sexual exploitation of children and six counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors in connection with his alleged sexting. These charges add further detail to the portrait created by snippets of Harris' digital and social media habits.
Harris' online activity has become a point of scrutiny in the case after it was revealed by investigators he had made disturbing online searches asking how long a child or animal could survive in a hot car and " how to survive in prison." In Harris' hearing, investigators also revealed that Harris had been sexting women while at work, and at least one of them he had met on Skout.
On the Skout app, a man believed to be Harris is listed as "RJ." He openly admits he is married, but states he is younger than he is (the profile lists it as 27, but we know he was 33 at the time of Cooper's death). He also defines his body type as "more to love."
"Just looking to talk," the "About" section reads. "Message me, I'm harmless."
The profile contains three pictures of Harris; two selfies and one face picture cropped to exclude what looks like a blonde woman. A wedding ring is not visible in any picture.
According to the time stamps on his profile, Harris has been active on the app for a year or longer. The profile was last updated a few months prior to Cooper's death.
While sparse, the profile contains a few updates Harris added.
"Yes I'm married," he wrote eight months ago.
His latest update was even less optimistic.
"If you don't want to talk please just say so. Being ignored is the worst."
Skout, Kik, Reddit and more
Skout is described as a "the global network for meeting new people," but it is easy to see it can be used as a dating or hookup-type site. Users specify their gender and gender preferences (men looking for women, etc), and within minutes users can access the pictures and profiles of people within their area. One HLNtv.com staffer who signed up for the app got no less than five messages within minutes, despite only specifying a gender.
In a July 2014 hearing, Cobb County Police Det. Phil Stoddard testified that Harris messaged six women, one of whom was underage, and exchanged explicit texts while [his son] Cooper Harris was dying. "He was having up to six different conversations with different women," said Stoddard. According to Stoddard, Harris was using a messaging service called Kik, and had met at least one of the women on Kik using Skout.
For the uninitiated, Kik is a messaging app that is popular with teens. It allows you to talk to your friends and browse and share any web site at the same time. Kik is rated 17+ by both the App Store and Common Sense Media. The App Store gives the rating due to "Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive themes."
The app also allows conversations to be easily deleted.
It is known that Harris spent time on Reddit, specifically on /r/childfree, a forum intended for those who have made a conscious choice not to have kids. Since word got out about Harris' visits there, /r/childfree has been converted to a private forum. Detective Stoddard also testified that Harris visited a Reddit page about "people that die," which showed graphic videos of people's deaths, but he did not specify which page it was.
In addition to this online behavior, there are also Twitter and Instagram profiles that appear to be his. @rossharris features a picture of Harris (the same as the one in his alleged Skout profile), and lists his area, contains a re-tweet about Alabama football (Harris attended the University of Alabama), and mentions Stonebridge Church, where Harris and his wife are members. The Twitter account seems to be seldom used, and was registered in 2008. The accompanying Instagram is private and only has two posts, though links from Twitter allow users to see the two images.
Harris has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree cruelty to a child and felony murder. His 22-month-old son, Cooper, died on June 18th after being strapped in a hot car for hours while Harris went to work. Harris' attorney, H. Maddox Kilgore, has said that his client forgot Cooper was in the car.