Judge finds probable cause against Cobb Co. father - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Judge finds probable cause against Cobb Co. father accused in death of son; Bond denied

Justin Harris (Photo from AP) Justin Harris (Photo from AP)
Leanna Harris, wife of Justin Harris (Photo from AP) Leanna Harris, wife of Justin Harris (Photo from AP)
Justin Ross Harris Justin Ross Harris

A judge found probable cause against Justin Harris, the father who is accused in the death of his 22-month-old son left in a hot car. His bond was also denied Thursday afternoon.

Harris is charged with murder and child cruelty in the death of his son Cooper.

Cobb County district attorney Vic Reynolds issued the following statement after the hearing:

"Today, Cobb Chief Magistrate Judge Frank Cox conducted a Probable Cause and Bond Hearing in the case of The State v. Justin Ross Harris. After hearing evidence, Judge Cox bound the case over to Superior Court on the charges of cruelty to children in the second degree and felony murder.

"Procedurally, the warrant now is sent to the Cobb District Attorney's Office for disposition. The investigation by Cobb Police is still in progress, and much work remains. Once law enforcement has completed their investigation, their file will be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for review. Only then will prosecution decisions be made. As in all cases, only two elements dictate those decisions: the facts, and the law.

"Media attention and public emotion have no effect on the decisions in this case.

"Ethical standards prohibit the DA's office from commenting on the evidence, and we will not violate or compromise those standards in any way. This case will run its course and we will follow wherever the evidence leads us. Thank you."

CBS46 has been following this developing story since it first broke on June 18.

Harris told investigators he forgot Cooper was in the car when he went to work that day.

During the hearing, investigators said Harris left Chick-fil-A with Cooper, who appeared to be awake and happy at 9:19 a.m.

Harris then drove 0.6 miles to work and arrived at 9:25 a.m., according to investigators at the hearing.

Investigators also said Harris had plans to go to a 5 p.m. movie with friends after he left work at 4:16 p.m.

Harris, after realizing Cooper was in the back of the car, pulled into a parking lot at Akers Mill Square.

Witnesses told police they heard "squealing tires, and the vehicle came to a stop," Detective Phil Stoddard testified. Harris got out of the car yelling, "Oh, my God, what have I done?" Stoddard said.

Harris then stood there with a blank look on his face, the detective said. When a witness told Harris his son needed CPR, Harris went to the other side of his vehicle and made a phone call, apparently to tell someone his son was dead, a witness told police, according to Stoddard.

Harris never called 911, and when an officer told him to get off his phone, he refused and even said, "F*** you" before an officer took his phone and handcuffed him, the detective said.

He also alleged that Harris told police he couldn't reach anyone on his telephone, but phone records show that Harris made three calls after he discovered his son's body, and one between him and his employer lasted six minutes, Stoddard said.

However, witness Leonard Madden offered a different version of what happened. Madden and an acquaintance were leaving a restaurant when they noticed a commotion and approached within 3 or 4 feet of a clearly distraught Harris.

"He was crying. He was hollering," Madden testified, recounting the father saying, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God, my son is dead!"

Investigators said Cooper was in the car for more than seven hours and likely died before noon.

An autopsy showed that the boy had died from the extreme heat. Cooper was in rigor mortis when he was removed from the car, according to detectives.

Stoddard said the car smelled of decomposition even still several hours after Cooper was discovered dead in the car.

Prosecutors alleged Harris was unhappy at work and in his marriage, portraying him as an unfaithful husband who wanted a child-free life.

According to Stoddard, Harris had been sexting girls, one as young as 17 years old, throughout the day while he was at work. Harris messaged six women, sending and receiving explicit texts, some including nude images.

When police searched Harris' computer, they found he had visited several sites and conducted searches not limited to but including living child free, how to survive in prison, how long it takes for a child to die in a car, and age of consent. Detectives said he also watched a video on dog deaths twice.

Police also said that Harris visited several sites that showed people dying in all sorts of ways, including suicides and executions.

Harris and his wife Leanna had two life insurance policies on Cooper totaling $27,000.

In addition to the charges he faces in connection with his son's death, Harris may also be charged with felony sexual exploitation of a minor and misdemeanor illegal contact with a minor.

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). CNN Wire contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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