Tragic accident or murder in hot-car toddler death?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Justin Ross Harris

COBB COUNTY, Georgia — It sounded like a tragic accident.

A young father in suburban Atlanta said he was horrified to discover after leaving work last week that he had left his toddler strapped into his car seat on a day of sweltering heat.

The toddler died.

On Wednesday, investigators released new information that sheds light on why they charged Justin Ross Harris with murder and cruelty to a child in the death of his son.

Authorities in Cobb County, just north of Atlanta, released an arrest warrant that says Harris returned to his car and opened the driver’s side door several hours before he said he found his son in the backseat.

Their decision to arrest Harris has triggered vigorous debate, with many people saying police should not have charged the father after what seemed to be a heartbreaking accident.

Several hundred people have signed an online petition urging Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds to drop the charges.


  • B

    I can’t believe he didn’t smell any odor when he opened the car door. He drove a short distance before he realized the baby was in the car seat. How can you forget your child??

      • Penny

        Body’s begin to decompose immediately upon death. In a hot car for 7 hours, one could expect to smell decomposition.

      • H

        That is incorrect, Penny. Also, the baby hadn’t been dead for seven hours when the father went out at lunchtime, anyway, which is what we were taking about. He had only been in the car for about half the day at that point, and possibly not yet dead or dead for only a short while. So, no, the father would not have smelled decomposition at that time.

  • Pasqualeena

    Most likely surveillance cameras..he should be arrested, this happens every year, so that would REMIND a parent to always pay attention to your horrible for the child to die that way..I’ve sat in a hot car, and it starts to make your chest heavy and hard to breathe, and I only say for a couple sad for that child

  • CJ

    ahhh yes surveillance cameras…. makes sense. I’m starting to think this wasn’t an accident as well…

  • J. Seivers

    This world just gets worse. How can anyone forget their child is in the car????? Accident? I don’t think so. I have read too many stories about this and it is horrifying. It isn’t an accident, it’s just plain idiotic. I would never sign a petition not to charge a parent. You just don’t forget your child is with you. Get a life, people. Take on your responsibility and look out for these precious children.

  • Charity Tilley

    THIS IS EXTREMELY SAD AND ALSO MAKES ME VERY MAD!!!!!! Like another person commented this happens every yr how in the qorld can u forget ur child is in the car. I am a single Mom of 4 and a daycare teacher of 12 to 24 month old children. Toddlers r always being vocal. And another question I have is where was he parked that no one saw this child or heard him m crying as I knw he had to when he started getting hot. Just makes me angry and sad for the child. The so called Dad should b left in jail cuz I can notconsider the tragedy a accident!!!!!!

    • lauren

      You are exactly right!! I kept saying hello a 2 year old talks!!!!! I could go on and on. But yeah your child is your responsibility not a chore! As you know a lot of people don’t deserve the blessing of a child.

    • hesnotamurdere

      Charity, you are possibly one of the most stupid people whose comment I’ve ever had the displeasure to read.

      • mother of a toddler

        Why exactly was that a stupid comment? Since you think you’re so smart, what is your take on this sad situation? And by the way, you didn’t even spell murderer correctly.

  • TheDepletedMom

    I can understand driving off forgetting your food after you’ve paid. . at the 2nd drive thru window…I can see forgetting you set something on the roof of your car and driving off…I just can’t see forgetting a kid in a car. . And funny you never hear of people forgetting these kids in the winter. .I don’t buy it. . Throw the book at him. I have 2 kids, and both talk and squeal way too much to forget they are back there.

  • Ashley

    How would you not know your child was in the backseat they were put there by somebody and how would you not have heard him back there??? sorry i would throw his stupid *** in jail!

  • Jerry

    He should be charge. You put the baby in the care seat and buckle him or her in, But forgets the baby is in the back. Really?

  • Sherry Steffey

    The baby could have been asleep. I can see how you could forget if you are not usually the one who takes the child to day care and you just get in your usual routine and forget.


    That’s what I can’t understand. How anyone can forget their child is in the car. He said he happened to look in his rear view mirror and seem the child back there. Is that the only time he looked in the mirror? Cause i’m always looking in mine. If I got grandkids or not. It’s just a habit I got of looking in all my mirror’s. So how do you forget?

  • mr5

    I don’t see how he didn’t realize or forgot his child was in the back seat. I have a toddler myself and trust me you can’t forget they are in the car with you. I say charge him. This country needs to quit just popping ADULTS on the hand for murder and charge them and give them what they deserve. I feel sick everytime i see stories about a child dieing or even getting hurt by those that are supposed to love them and take care of them. i wonder that as well, is that the only time he looked in his mirror. I am constantly looking in mine.

  • David

    My children have been grown for years, but to this day I still look in the back seat after I exit my car. I find it hard to believe this guy is that absent minded that he forgot his son was in the back seat!

  • lauren

    I mean they said he looked up how long it would take for a dog to die in a car with the heat. He knew he was in there!

  • ashley

    How insanely horrible for that poor child to suffer such a terrible death. That man should be charged whether it was an accident or do you forget about your own child being in the
    back seat of your vehicle? Really? And if its that easy for someone to forget they shouldn’t have had children to begin with. I couldn’t imagine…

  • cat

    If it truly was an accident, the father would not care if he was charged. He would be wishing he could take the place of his son. There would be no punishment one could inflict upon him worse than the one he would live with for the rest of his life.

    However, regardless if it was an accident or not, he should be charged. Let the evidence speak for itself. I find it hard to believe, whether it is your routine or not, whether the child is asleep or not, that you can forget your child for hours. I always check the car before getting out to make sure I have dropped everyone off where they need to be. Life is rushed and stressful, if your children don’t deserve a second thought, then you are too busy to have them.

  • trevor

    dropped charges? hell no.. thats obvious child neglect, even if it was an accident his ignorance and neglagence caused the death of his son.. he deserves to go to jail

  • mike

    How in the fu$k can u forget a child. They are a gift from God. This does happen every year. Bc the parents are to worried about themselves then there kids. I have 3 kids and they are my 1 priority. Put him in a car on a hot day and let him feel the pain that his child felt.

  • Michelle

    This makes me so MAD!! I don’t understand how u can forget your child even if it was asleep. He knew exactly what he was doing. HE MURDERED HIS INNOCENT CHILD. IF HE DIDNT WANT THE CHILD LET SOMEONE ADOPT IT. this MURDERER should be put in a hot car with the heat wide open so he can feel what his child went thru. Makes me so sick !!!

  • o0Derrick0o

    If you forget your child, that means that child was not a priority. I bet he didn’t forget his wallet, his phone or his lunch.

  • My2ÔéČent$

    Was looking for the part in the article that states he had looked up the info about a dog in a hot car….?…would like to read it myself. ..

  • raymond lowry

    To hell with jail why should our tax dollars pay for this scums comforts . I do allot of work in jails . the prisoners love it there . they have cable t.v. , video games ,3 meals a day and warmth in the winter and a.c. in the summer ! Put his @$$ in a black ugo in a freshly paved parking lot for a few days with the windows up tight !!

  • Julia

    If he gets away with this I can see how people who want to get rid of their babies will “accidentally” forget them in cars. People are sick.

  • Anonymous

    Let me post a very perceptive comment from another person/site that I read on this topic: The routine is morning drop-off at daycare and afternoon pick-up at daycare. The daycare center was on-site at the father’s place of employment. If the father’s claim that by mistake he forgot to drop the child off at the on-site daycare center in the morning is true, then he would have realized the “mistake” when he went to pick the child up at the on-site daycare center in the afternoon.

    But it didn’t happen that way.

    As it happened, he must be supposed to have made two “mistakes” — (1) forgetting to drop the child off at daycare and then (2) forgetting to pick the child up at daycare.

    That doesn’t make sense.

    No surprise that the inquiry is now expanding to cover the mother. There are mothers who would check in their child at day care during the day; there are wife-mothers who would check in on their husbands during the day. That apparently did not happen. The mother’s statement of “support” of the father seems a bit odd.

    This case needs the best/finest investigators to do their best/finest work.

Comments are closed.