For the past several days, the national debate surrounding Justin Ross Harris has been whether he should face the full force of the justice system for somehow forgetting his child was inside a locked vehicle for seven hours when it was 91 degrees outside. The 22-month-old boy literally baked to death in the Atlanta sun, while the father was charged with murder, despite breaking down and wailing in public when he supposedly realized what he'd done. Here's the thing, though: From the very beginning there were questions about what really happened to little Cooper Harris and whether what his father did really was a tragic accident or something much more sinister.
Now, the layers of Justin Ross Harris's story are being peeled back by investigators and what's at the center, according to various reports, may be a truth that's much different than what Harris claimed happened. WAGA TV, Fox 5 in Atlanta, is reporting that a new warrant made available today by Cobb County police alleges that Harris placed Cooper into a rear-facing car seat in the back of his Hyundai Tuscon after the two ate breakfast together at a Chick-fil-A. Harris then reportedly drove directly to his place of work, the Home Depot corporate office, and entered, leaving the child in the car. He was supposed to have dropped Cooper off at daycare before reporting to work -- but he didn't. If the warrant is correct, Justin Ross Harris had breakfast with his child just a few minutes before he claims to have forgotten about him for seven hours.
The warrant also alleges that Harris returned to his vehicle during his lunch break, opened the driver's side door, placed something inside, then shut the door and went back to work -- supposedly without noticing his son.
But the truly chilling new detail, according to a Fox 5 law enforcement source, is that investigators apparently searched Harris's office computer and found in its history a search for information on how long it would take an animal to die in a hot car. This seems to confirm the suspicions we reported here last week as well as the statement of another police source who initially told Fox 5 regarding the case, "There's more than what meets the eye."
Obviously, it's up to investigators and the justice system to present their case and the last thing anyone should do is try Justin Ross Harris in the court of public opinion with the media as prosecutor. That's a recipe for disaster. But these new details may indeed eventually go a long way in answering the question everyone asked following this tragedy: How the hell could it have happened? How does a father forget his 22-month-old son in a car for seven hours in the hot sun? The answer: Maybe he didn't forget.
If Harris somehow accidentally left his toddler to die in what was essentially an oven -- and the prolonged, excruciating death this child suffered should never be forgotten -- then he deserves to be charged with, at the very least, criminally negligent homicide and face whatever sentence the justice system sees fit. There should be no question about this. It doesn't matter how many people take to social media to plead for compassion or how many Change.org petitions claim that he's suffered enough and that prison would be an unfair, excess torture. The system exists to speak for one person in this: Cooper Harris, the little boy who has no voice to speak for himself and will never grow up because he slowly baked to death.
If it's ultimately proven that Harris purposely left his child to die in that car -- then there isn't a punishment he could face that's agonizing enough to truly be called justice.
Cooper Harris's autopsy results were just released. The cause of death: hyperthermia. The ruling: homicide.