(Photo: 22-month-old Cooper Harris.)
Every Summer we read the usual series of horror stories about thoughtless pet owners leaving their dogs locked in cars with the windows barely cracked or entirely rolled-up. It's difficult to traverse a parking lot without occasionally spotting one or more of these cases, and the urge to furiously smash the car windows with an aluminum baseball bat is almost irresistible -- but we'll just have to settle for notifying the authorities and watching as the owner is cited for cruelty.
But what happened in Marietta, Georgia this week was just one of dozens of cases every year not involving animals, but children.
Justin Ross Harris was supposed to have driven his 22-month old son, Cooper, to daycare before commuting to work. He never did. In fact, Harris apparently forgot Cooper was in the car as he drove directly to work. He parked his Hyundai Tucson with the windows rolled up and spent seven hours on the job.
It was 92-degrees in Marietta that day.
Harris apparently returned to his car after work and began to drive elsewhere. Only then did he realize his son was in the back seat.
Harris told police that after realizing shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday that his son was still in the backseat of his SUV, he immediately pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center on Akers Mill Road. By then, it was too late. Cooper Harris could not be revived.
Witnesses said Harris was heard screaming, "What have I done? What have I done? I’ve killed our child." He was charged with felony murder and child cruelty, and is currently in prison without bond.
But this is the second time it's happened this week. Another case occurred in Florida when a man left his 9-month-old daughter locked in his pickup truck. KidsAndCars.org reported that these two cases are the latest in more than 14 cases this year alone. In 2013, 43 children died when their parents left them locked in cars in the stifling Summertime heat.
Obviously any pair of jackasses can awkwardly mash together their compatible organs and breed all they want, but that doesn't make them capable of successfully caring for another living human being. It's one thing to be a parent who emotionally terrorizes a child for any number of awful reasons, but it's another thing entirely when a parent is so horrendously careless that he or she leaves their child in a locked car.
How has Harris lived to age 33 without having accidentally fallen off the roof of his house, or stabbed himself in the eye with his toothbrush? How has he managed to handle power tools? Or kitchenware? What kind of breathtakingly moronic dad forgets his toddler is in a car seat in back of a Hyundai? For that matter, what kind of homicidal moron leaves his or her loaded firearm laying around the house? There aren't prison walls thick enough or confinement brutal enough for these "parents."
Revised. Details added above regarding Harris after leaving work.
UPDATE: Frequent contributor to The Daily Banter, Pat Perion noted in the comments that Cobb County police are hinting to the press that there's more to the story of Justin Harris and the torturous death of his 22-month old son.
Harris claimed that he forget to drop the boy off at daycare and instead went to work with the child strapped in a child seat in the back of the vehicle.
Privately, Cobb County investigators tell 11Alive that there is evidence that the death is more than just a tragic accident. Publicly, details of the case remain shrouded in mystery.
Several people have come out in support of Harris. An online petition has been created urging the district attorney to drop the charges. Other websites are raising money for Harris and his wife for their expenses. More than $12,000 has been raised so far.
I wonder what will happen to all of that support when or if we discover this wasn't what Harris supporters are calling merely a tragic accident.
Frankly, it's difficult to grasp the bizarrely effusive outpouring of sympathy for Harris after his dreadfully negligent parenting. How would we react if he had accidentally forgotten to feed his child for a week? Or held his son over the edge of a balcony then lost his grip? Or worse -- pointed a firearm at his son's head, not realizing that the gun was loaded and the safety off, and the gun discharged? Or what if he merely left his loaded gun on the kitchen table, and his son thought it was a toy and put it in his mouth?
I suppose no matter how horrendous the behavior, the internet will dredge up enough people to organize petitions and sympathy collections for inexcusably and criminally incompetent people. "It was an accident" or "he's suffered enough" is no excuse for what happened in this or any other of the dozens of cases -- nor is it a substitute for legal justice.