Father charged with murder after leaving toddler in hot car for 8 hours

ATLANTA, Ga. — A father has been charged with murder in the death of his 2-year-old child after he allegedly left the toddler in a hot car for eight hours.

Police said Justin Ross Harris, 34, was supposed to drop the child off at daycare, but forgot.

He then drove to work around 9 a.m. Wednesday and left the toddler in the car. It wasn’t until Harris left work and started driving home that he looked in the backseat and saw the child still strapped in the car seat and unresponsive.

A witness saw Harris pull into the Akers Mill Square shopping center, stop his car straddling two lanes of traffic, jump out and begin CPR on the toddler.

“He was constantly saying, ‘What have I done, what have I done.'”

Harris is charged with murder and cruelty to children, both felonies and is currently being held without bond at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Anyone with information about this case which may assist detectives is asked to call 770-499-3945.

Temperatures in Atlanta topped 90 degrees Wednesday afternoon. Temperatures inside a hot car could go as high as 130 to 140 degrees in a few hours.

Source: CNN/WGCL

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140 comments

  • Brent

    Please pray for Ross Harris and his family. He has to deal with the guilt and the loss of his child. This will be a lifetime of punishment and he does not deserve jail. A spokesman and advocate for awareness of children being left in cars would bebetter than a life in for society. Please pray

    • Suzie Dillon Collins

      Have you lost your ever-loving mind? He doesn’t deserve jail time, you say? OK. How about YOU go and sit in a car for 8 hours with no air in 90 degree heat and see how that baby felt as it slowly died. How do you forget to take your child to daycare? How do you forget your child is in the car? He deserves to be locked in a car in the heat and let there be cameras around videoing his demise as an example of what a child would be going through as it dies of not only the extreme heat, but also the lack of oxygen after being in the car for 8 hours!!!

      • Cathy

        I’m an asthmatic, and I can’t get my breath when I first get inside my locked car. I got in yesterday, and the interior read 109 degrees when I started the car. I can only imagine the horrible death this baby suffered. According to eye witnesses the father kept saying over and over “What have I done?” What have I done?” Witnesses also said the father had to be physically restrained in his grief and distress. This man is never going to forgive himself, and I can only imagine what the child’s mother and other relatives are going to put him through. May the mercy of God cover this family. The baby has eternal life in heaven.

      • Pam

        You’re not a nice person….Suzie Dillon Collins!!! I had a family member who did this….luckily her son was found before a tragedy happened but I know very well the incident did not occur because of a lack of love…she simply forgot and as hard as that may be for you, as a PERFECT person, to believe, it does happen. May God have mercy on your judgmental soul…

      • Sherri

        This man will punish himself for the rest of his life, prison will only make it worse. I send prayers to him and his family and God is taking care of that child now. This is no where near murder, I work in the court system, trust me, this is NOT MURDER!

      • Suzie Dillon Collins

        Pam, I never claimed to be perfect… Noone is perfect. I DO claim, however, that I would not FORGET my child. My children are 14 months apart, so I at one time had a newborn and a 14 month old. I can PROMISE you that they were not forgotten, not even once. They were not left in the car while I “ran in real quick to pay for gas”, and they surely were not left in the car for 8 hours without even a second thought of “oh my god I forgot to drop off the baby”. Explain to me how one does that. All the stories: child dies in hot car, child left in car while parent shops… Explain to me how that is OK to do, or how you can even begin to think he shouldn’t be punished for what that child went through. You don’t “forget” your child is in the car. Have you sat down and really tried to imagine what this child went through? This would be a slow, agonizing death for anyone, but a 2 year old child? I tell you what, YOU go and sit in a car in 90 degree heat with the windows up for, oh let’s say 2 hours, THEN come back and tell me how you feel. ONLY THEN are you allowed to pass judgement on my opinions of this situation.

      • Puttherealevilpeopleinprison

        Suzie Dillon Collins, it is evil people like you who should be rotting in jail.

      • Suzie Dillon Collins

        Well PUTTHEREALEVILPEOPLEINPRISON, lucky for me, I WON’T be the one rotting in jail because I have enough sense to not “forget” my child…. As I have told others who don’t like my opinionated posts, YOU go and sit in a car in 90 degree heat with the windows up for 2 hours, yes I will allow 2 as opposed to the 8 this poor baby had to endure. ONLY THEN are you allowed to offer an opinion about my comment. Looking forward to your response after your 2 hour stay in the hot car.

  • Cathy Parr

    My condolences to the family. This is a terrible tragedy. Did my ears deceive me or did the announcer say this was a 22 yr old child?

  • Susan lacy

    And now this family must suffer through TWO tragedies! What is wrong with our society when we feel the need to punish a parent for a terrible accident. Distraction. We are all guilty of it to some extent. It is a result of the fast-paced society we live in. There is no punishment that will mean more to this father than living the rest of his days without his child. Please people have a little compassion. Say a prayer for him and his family and lay no blame.

    • Thomas Christy

      Are you insane this father needs to go to prison for the rest of his life. And in prison the other prisoners will take care of him for letting a baby die. Send him to prison now.

      • Aly

        Are you kidding me? He needs to go to prison for the rest of his life for INNOCENTLY and ACCIDENTALLY killing his son? Who when he found he IMMEDIATELY tried to revive and save and was full of guilt???????? You’re so effed in the head. Now his wife looses her son AND her husband. But she didn’t need jail to loose her husband. He is probably ruined for life because of this tragedy.

      • Concerned Citizen

        So you are perfect and NEVER made a mistake? There are a lot of people out there that purposely harm their children, but I truly feel this man simply made a mistake. A big mistake, yes! However, I agree that this man will have to live with this guilt the rest of his life. Get a grip. I bet when you make your next mistake, you wouldn’t be so quick to want someone to throw you in jail.

      • peoplearestupidbeyondwords

        Thomas Christy, you are so incredibly stupid. There really are no words sufficient to describe just how much of a blithering idiot you are. Unless you’re just plain evil. Maybe that’s it. People like you are the ones who should be in prison. You’re too mean to walk around free in society.

      • Beth Manicho

        I do not think he needs to go to prison for life but he needs to be punished. Are some of you missing the fact that he forgot his child for eight hours. He never thought once in eight house about his child? It sound fishy to me. I hope they do an intense investigation and make sure this was just a horrible accident and not an attempt to collect life insure monies.

      • Beth Manicho

        I agree with you. A innocent child has died someone (daddy) needs to be held accountable. Not that it would much better to forget for an hour is one but eight hours- seems fishy to me. I will be honest I am a recovering drug addict and my son was about six at the worst of my addiction and I never forgot him. He now is 26 years old.

      • mier

        Yes, he needs to go to prison. Even as an accident, this child suffered horribly. This is no two-minute death. This is torture. And there is evidence that this man knew exactly what he was doing. He took his son to breakfast less than a mile from his workplace. He FORGOT him in LESS THAN A MILE? Seriously? Then came down at lunchtime to his car and didn’t notice AGAIN? And also searched on his computer how long it takes for an animal to die in a hot car?

        How is your child so unimportant that you forget him in less than a mile?

    • Kim

      Fast paced??? Please. I’ve been in a serious rush before, but forget my child??? No way in hell. I’m the mother of 3 and I have never forgotten them anywhere. There is no excuse for this. Children first, everything else second.

    • Tara Eveland Photography

      First off I had this same thought, then after common sense and placing my husband in this same scenerio say even he did take the kid daily to daycare it was just a one time thing, baby fell sleep in traffic, dad was focused on work and listening to morning radio in the work zone, went to work. okay cool but at SOME POINT IN A WORKDAY, A BREAK A LUNCH, SOME POINT IN 8 HOURS OF WORK A CARING FATHER THINGS ABOUT HIS FAMILY! he would have rmemebered the kid out there! you dont just forget your kids like that. i dont believe his story at all. not one bit.

    • Matt

      Susan, a person is dead because of his negligence. A child. As a father, if I EVER did this to my child I would beg the judge to sentance me to death. If it was really an accident, does that mean if I was taking YOUR child to daycare and this happened that I could just say “whoops, sorry it was an accident” and you would be ok with it?

      • Beth Manicho

        I was not saying are you serious to Matt but to Susan “lay no blame”. Why is Matt an idiot? If someone left your child in a oven, basically, you would be okay with I forgot? Its not like you forgot the milk in the car. The world is getting more twisted every day.

      • Beth

        Glockmeister~Is that the best you can come up with? To insult someone is the easy way so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • margaret sauer

    This happened some years back to a mother who had forgotten her baby in the car. Her husband usually dropped the baby off and she the older child to school and that day it was switched and she forgot the baby was in the car. Watched her trial, so so heartbreaking. A big waste of that states money bringing that case to trial. She was broken and hysterical through out he whole thing and found not guilty. What has happened to this father is no different. He had no intent to harm his child.Its not murder its a horrible accident that will be in his nightmare for the rest of his life. Just imagine living with that for the rest of your days.

    • news2me

      I agree. This man is not a criminal. He is a human who forgot.
      I forgot my child was in the car once but luckily she started the baby talk….Looked back and almost fainted when I realized I had forgotten. I turned around and took her to day care.
      You can not punish someone for forgetting and treat them as if they purposely killed their child.
      This arrest does not make any sense.
      Go after the real murderers!

      • Tara Eveland Photography

        Seriously, so you think a loving father would not think ONE TIME ALL DAY about his child or his family or anything at all on breaks or lunchtime wouldnt call his wife? I think this was some plot here and God only knows why they would do this. the MOM should have callled the daycare as well to see if the son was dropped off okay if it was the dads first day doing it

  • Jennifer

    This is sooo incredibly ridiculous. I find it so hard to believe that the father did not think of his child ONCE ALL day, even on his lunch break, and that his wife didn’t call/text to see if his FIRST time taking the baby to daycare went OK! —Unbelievable.

  • ss

    I think whoever watches the kids via day care or relative if it’s routine everyday and that baby does not show up for daycare a phone call should be made to both parents!! It should be a rule!! I have seen parents leave children in the car to run on for coffee or animals…people just don’t think it can happen to them and that’s the problem they don’t think it could happen to them….

  • Bass

    well to me he is not guilty buz he FORGOT ..same as all of you people are forgot pay bills, forgot what suppose to do..not alone one but many people always FORGOT issuse..come on….I don’t think he is not murder his son..no way! I do same FORGOT my pills, bills , many etc.. why you put him in jail ..you all idiot!! you all same thing FORGOT!! then hush!!

    • mier

      Forgetting to take your pills is NOWHERE near in the same category as forgetting your child. How about forgetting to bring someone who is dying to the hospital? Or maybe forgetting to that taking too many tylenol will kill you? There’s a better comparison.

  • Mimi Laloo

    This man has been through enough! Let him be. He will have to live his life thinking about his baby for the rest of his life. I’m sure this man wants to crawl in a hole and die for what has happened to his baby. I say this because I almost left my baby in the car 9 years ago while attending a community college. I was a single parent with a lot on my plate, trying to attend college and better myself for better job opportunities.I worked a full time job not to mention It was an hour drive one way just to attend school.
    One morning after getting off work my son and I were headed to school for my final exams I was suppose to drop him off at the daycare on the other side of the college campus. I was so stressed and worried about my exams. I was in a rush. My son was as quiet as a mouse due to he always fell asleep when riding long distances. I had parked my car and was getting out to keep from being late, when all of a sudden he sneezed. It was the sneeze that saved his life because that day the high reached 100 degree. So for all these judgemental people out here this can happen! One never knows just what another goes through just before a tragedy like this occurs. Just keep this family uplifted in prayer because at the end of the day God is the final judge.

    • mier

      There is evidence of intent here. Don’t be so quick to assume innocence because you did something innocently.

      Can you honestly tell us how long it would have taken you to remember your kid?

  • BFJ

    If that was me I would only want to go free long enough to effectively off myself. There’s no coming back and living a normal life after that one.

  • Tina

    Thomas Christy you have no heart and nothing you stated was of God…Our Lord in saviour would not punish this man and matter of fact he already forgave him. He was a good parent who made a mistake Im sure witht he stupide remark you made you have made plenty of shitty descions and mistakes in your life..You should Pray that God forgives you

  • Crystal

    What I don’t understand is how he didn’t realize the child was in the car when he got out. How do you stop your car, get out, grab your things you need to take in with you to work, and not realize there is a kid sitting in the back seat? It doesn’t even make any sense. The story sounds really fishy to me. The kid didn’t cry at any point? He didn’t look in his rearview mirror at all during the drive?

    • Erin

      Don’t know this for a fact, but guidelines now want kids rear facing in car seats for two years. So, that means when you are driving you don’t see you child in the rearview. I know I reach around quite a bit to check on my 8 month old, because she typically falls asleep while we drive.

  • jane lin

    No parent should ever imagine that they are immune to this, or that it is only “bad parents”…unlike them…that can make this mistake. The evidence suggests it can happen to anyone, so everyone should have a system that prevents it happening to their child. I put my son’s car seat in the middle of the backseat, have the shade down with the vanity mirror open so I can see him constantly, and always put my work bag in the back seat. Batter safe than sorry.

  • melainie

    What a terrible tragedy. I cannot begin to imagine the guilt of that father. God bless them all, especially that poor baby.

  • Mike

    I think we are focusing on the wrong part of this story. I am the father of an 11 month old girl, and I watched this unfold from my office window across the street from the shopping center. Never once did it cross my mind that this was not an accident. Instead, I thought about what I could do to make sure this never happens to my child. I think most people would say that I am a very protective and attentive parent, but I am also educated enough to realize that I don’t know everything, and that mistakes are a part of life. My daughter is the absolute center of my universe, but while at work, I have had a since of complacency about the safety of my family. Why should I worry after all, her momma has her? My days are filled with long hours, meetings, negotiations, hectic schedules, and I can sometimes become so wrapped up in the business of the day that I look down at the clock to realize it is early evening, and I have not checked in with my wife once. I can absolutely see why he wouldn’t think twice about the safety of his child, because in his mind the child is safe at daycare, with mom, etc. We will all see what evidence could lead them to believe he willfully left the child in the car soon enough, but instead of focusing on the guilt or innocence of the father, we should all use this as a reminder of what could happen to any parent. One lapse in judgement, one false step is all it takes. I know this tragedy has made me completely re-evaluate my family’s system of transferring our little girl from place to place. The delivering parent now must call the other as soon as the drop off occurs. If the call doesn’t come within 15 min of the expected drop off time, then the other parent goes into detective mode. I also place my briefcase under her diaper bag, right next to the car seat. I have created alerts on my phone for the times I usually drop her off, and other intervals of the day reminding me to check and see where she is. While I think to myself that I could never forget about her, I am not arrogant enough to believe I couldn’t make a mistake. I pray for little Cooper’s family, both father and mother. Hopefully it will bring them some form of comfort in this incredibly difficult time that Cooper did not die in vain. If awareness of this tragedy saves the life of only one child, then his legacy is intact. I know he has touched the lives of our family without even knowing him, and has made my little girl safer. I hope other parents will stop judging, and instead look inward. Instead of saying, “I am a good parent, and this only happens to bad parents.”, look at your own family and ask yourself, “What could I learn from this horrible tragedy? What practices could make us safer?” I assure you, no parent thinks of themselves as bad, every parent thinks it can’t/won’t happen to them, but it does happen. My research showed me that the problem is actually getting worse. The number of children dying from heatstroke from 1990 to this year, while moving up or down a little from year to year, is definitely trending upwards. The only way for this to improve is for the “better than thou” parents out there to drop the ego, pay attention to the facts, and endeavor to change the behaviors which lead to this kind of tragedy before it is too late.

    • Donna Daugherty

      I wish the guy that this happened to could see this.. he probably feels lower than ever.. but if he only knew how many children’s lives he has saved just by making other parents double check and be more careful. I completely agree with you.. this could happen to anyone! Hopefully this opens more eyes than mouths connected to small minds.

      • Tommy

        Faith, My observation of your mode of discourse is that you delight in ad hominem attacks and otherwise behaving as if you were about 7 years old (and that’s being generous). If your pithy insults are the sum total of your contributions, why don’t you consider a hobby besides being such a cliche’? If your self esteem is so low that you need to denigrate commenters that are making adult points from a moral and rational perspective, could I suggest professional help?

        Here, feel free to cut and paste this in your reply: “Shut up Tommy.” “You’re an idiot Tommy.” Take a pill, Tommy.” Hope this helps you.

  • Shelia

    So many comments in support of this father really shocked me. Yes many people forget things but to forget your child in a hot car? I have three children, all adults now, and do not understand how you forget your child in the car. Might be time to start paying better attention. Slow down your busy lives long enough to parent. How can so many say he should just get off scott free from this? Maybe more parents going to prison for this sort of thing will force others to open their eyes and pay attention. A child is dead, and that child suffered. He should have to pay for that. And no I do not think guilt is a suitable punishment. Prison is a suitable punishment. That innocent child suffered in a hot car until death finally took him, their should be a punishment for that.

  • Tabitha

    For the people who say “he made a mistake, it was an accident, and he’ll have to live with this for the rest of his life which is punishment enough” you really need to get a grip! He didn’t forget to drop off the dry cleaning, he forgot his CHILD! And let me just say also no I’m not perfect & never claimed to be. However I am a loving mother & simply do not get how any loving parent forgets there child much less for 8 hours. No excuses at all make it ok. I have a 2 & 4 year old, my two year old still wakes me up 2 to 5 times a night, she simply doesn’t sleep. I work full time & very much understand being sleep deprived, and never have I forgot my children! Parents are suppose to be the responsible ones. Bottom line he killed his two year old child in a horrible way mind you. Lets put him in a car strapped down for eight hours & save tax payers money.

  • Sara

    How about this! Don’t have children if you can’t afford to stay at home and raise them yourself!! Putting your child in daycare is selfish so parents aren’t inconvenienced. This scenario would never occur if “parents” raised their own kids!!

  • M

    This Father should be put in a hot car left too die! Also he should not go too his Son s funral. Being soo evil mined he will have too die. Becouse he feels no remorse for his Son. Just a baby he was. I’m sad this had happen all Pernts put too death who kills there children.

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