MARIETTA, Ga. — A judge denied bond for a Georgia man charged with murder in the hot car death of his 22-month-old son, saying the man will stand trial on the charges against him.
During a probable cause hearing Thursday in Cobb County Magistrate Court in this Atlanta suburb, a police detective testified that Justin Ross Harris was sexting with several women on the day of his son's death and there were two life insurance policies on his son, Cooper.
Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard described the evidence police have suggesting Harris, who also is charged with child cruelty, killed Cooper intentionally.
Harris and his wife had two life insurance policies for the toddler, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000, Stoddard said, adding that Harris' wife had become unhappy with her husband's spending habits.
A woman whom Harris was sexting with June 18, said that Harris "wanted to hook up." Several explicit pictures were sent, beginning in the morning and lasting throughout the day, Stoddard said.
Maddox Kilgore, Harris' attorney, objected to the questions about the sexting, but the district attorney said the questions would show Harris was in an unhappy marriage and wanted a "childless life."
Stoddard also testified that Harris had accessed websites advocating "child free" and searched "how to survive prison" before Cooper died.
Stoddard testified that Harris should be denied bond.
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"I think the evidence now is showing intent," he said. Stoddard said Harris was a "flight risk," because there was evidence of a double life, Harris had family in Alabama and that Harris had said he had law enforcement experience.
Harris has told police he was supposed to drive his son to day care the morning of June 18 but drove to work without realizing that his son was strapped into a car seat in the back.
Stoddard testified that Harris told him that he went to lunch with two friends and they stopped at a Home Depot, where Harris bought some light bulbs. Surveillance footage showed Harris returned to his car and tossed some items into his vehicle.
Stoddard testified that Harris never told them during questioning that he'd returned to his vehicle during lunch.
Harris had planned to go to a movie at 5 p.m. with his friends, Stoddard said. On the way to the movies, Harris quickly pulled over and pulled Cooper from the back seat of his SUV and placed him on the ground. A witness said that he performed CPR on the boy as Harris made phone calls.
Stoddard said that witnesses reported that Harris told someone by phone Cooper had died. Harris told detectives that he never reached anyone by phone, Stoddard testified.
The detective said that when he told Harris he'd be charged with murder, Harris responded, "But there's no malicious intent."
A defense witness testified that Harris appeared to be extremely upset after pulling into the parking lot, trying to do CPR on his son.
"He was saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God, my son is dead, oh my God,' " witness Leonard Madden said.
Alex Hall, a co-worker of Harris' who went to lunch with him that day, said Harris wasn't acting unusual at lunch.
Hall said Harris seemed like a good, caring father.
Kilgore, Harris' defense attorney, had argued that there was no evidence that Harris was acting in a "willful, wanton" manner to warrant the "criminal negligence" necessary in the child cruelty charge. He argued that there was no evidence that Harris knew his son was in the SUV, and surveillance video proves that.
Kilgore also said that the only purpose of bringing up Harris' sexting was to shame him, adding it had no relevance to the case.
The prosecutor disagreed saying it was relevant because it showed Harris was doing everything but worrying about his child.
Harris will remain in jail until trial. His defense had sought $50,000 bond.