An Unusual Murder Charge After Toddler Dies in Hot Car
Georgia man forgot to drop son at day care
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2014 12:13 AM CDT
Updated Jun 20, 2014 4:30 AM CDT
Cobb County police investigate an SUV where a toddler died near Marietta, Ga., when the father forgot to drop his child off at day care and went to work.    (WXIA, WGCL, FOX 5)

(Newser) – A father in Georgia has been charged with not only child cruelty but murder after his 22-month-old son died in a hot SUV while he was at work. Police say Justin Ross Harris, 33, left his son Cooper strapped in a car seat for seven hours on Wednesday, when temperatures climbed into the 90s, after forgetting to drop him off at day care. Police say that after he noticed his unresponsive son in the back seat as he drove home, the horrified father pulled over, took him out of the vehicle to try to revive him, and had to be physically restrained when he realized his son was gone. "He kept saying, 'What have I done? What have I done?'" a witness tells WBTV.

The family's landlord tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Harris and his wife are "very, very, nice" people who were besotted with their baby. Harris is being held without bond and will be in jail for at least the next month. Similar tragedies happen all too often—Cooper is the 13th child to die in an overheated car in the US so far this year—but murder charges are rare. "It's a terrible tragedy. This man is being punished more in his own heart and mind than might be the situation when the case comes to court," an attorney who has defended parents in similar cases tells Time. "The thought of being the cause of death to your own child is like a life sentence." A day before the Georgia case, a 9-month-old girl in Florida died after being left in a pickup truck for several hours while her father went to work after forgetting to drop her off at her grandmother's house. "I would have much rather been the one suffering," the heartbroken father—who has not been charged with a crime—tells WFTV. He says he wants others to learn from his mistake. "Keep something in the front seat to remind you, you know that the baby is there," he says. "Just double-check everything."

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Showing 3 of 215 comments
kell490
Jul 20, 2014 8:13 AM CDT
What the news article isn't telling you is The lead investigator in the case testified Harris was having marital and work problems. He had done Internet research on living child-free and how to survive in prison before leaving son Cooper Harris in his sport utility vehicle for seven hours on a hot day, said Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard. This wasn't a mistake so that is why he got the murder charge. He wanted to kill his kid but make it look like he just left his kid in the car. Some people have no feeling for their kids just a burden on them I guess. I know someone like this he divorced his wife said he had no feeling for his kids never sees them at all.
grammadee94
Jun 26, 2014 3:32 PM CDT
My kids who are now both grown (46 and 29) were ALWAYS in the carseat in the FRONT seat of my car and facing "backwards" when they were infants, because I would be able to see if they were choking or in some other sort of distress that I wouldn't be able to see if they were anchored in the backseat. That way they were never "forgotten" because they were in front with me. When they became toddlers, I DID put them in front facing car seats in the back seat, but they were anchored on the passenger side backseat where I could see them in my rear view mirror. I don't know how ANYONE can forget that they child is in the car, IF they follow the SAME routine EVERYDAY. How does that happen????
Mike
Jun 23, 2014 9:29 PM CDT
How do you "FORGET" that your kid is in the car? Seriously? What a pathetic excuse for negligence, amongst others!!!