Mom Now Faces Scrutiny in Hot Car Death

Leanna Harris' behavior puzzles investigators

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 7, 2014 4:55 AM CDT | Updated Jul 7, 2014 8:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Leanna Harris—unlike her husband—has not been charged in the death of her 22-month-old son in a hot car but investigators are puzzled by some of her behavior. Police say she had done online research on children dying in hot cars and on the day her son, Cooper, died, she calmly said, "Ross must have left him in the car. There's no other explanation," after being told he had never arrived at day care, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution finds. When she was briefly reunited with her husband at the police station, police say she asked him "Did you say too much?" Some of her remarks at her son's funeral also raised eyebrows. As her husband listened in from jail, she said she wouldn't bring Cooper back even if she could. "He's in the most peaceful, wonderful place there is," she said.

The 30-year-old has shown little emotion at court hearings and legal experts aren't sure whether she will end up being charged as a co-conspirator or used as a witness against her husband, which Georgia law permits in cases involving the death of a child. In other developments:

  • Horrifying details of the boy's death emerged at a bond hearing a few days ago, reports the New York Daily News. A police officer testified that the little boy had desperately struggled to free himself from the car seat inside the hot SUV. Scratch marks on the boy's face and abrasions on the back of his head are signs of a frantic effort to get out of the seat. Search warrants released the next day stated that the belts were at the tightest setting.
  • At the same hearing, it emerged that Justin Ross Harris had exchanged explicit messages and photos with six women as his son baked to death. Investigators say Harris appeared to be trying to cover his tracks on all three computers he used, and they have only "scratched the surface" in their search for deleted files. "People think 'Well, this is a cell phone. Once I delete a picture or text message or my contacts, it's gone,'" a computer forensics expert tells NBC 11. "No. Even when you hit 'reset' on your phone, that information is still stored on that hard drive."

Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, sits for his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court.
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, sits for his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court.   (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Leanna Harris looks on during her husband's bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court last week.
Leanna Harris looks on during her husband's bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court last week.   (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Flowers cover the grave of Cooper Harris at the Tuscaloosa Memorial Park Cemetery.
Flowers cover the grave of Cooper Harris at the Tuscaloosa Memorial Park Cemetery.   (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
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