Dad Who Left His Toddler to Die in a Hot SUV Is Found Guilty of Murder


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For parents, no matter how old your kids may be, they're never far from your thoughts or your heart. That's why this dad's claim that for seven hours -- almost an entire day -- he forgot about his toddler (whom he seemingly left to die in a hot car in the heat of the summer in Georgia while going about his day and managing to sext six different women) just never made sense. Justin Ross Harris was found guilty of three counts of murder in the 2014 death of his son, Cooper, who was 22 months old. 

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Prosecutors argued that Harris, 35, locked the toddler in the car on purpose as he wanted to be rid of his family duties. On the day Cooper died, digital evidence showed that the dad was sending sexual messages and photos to six different women, including one minor. It was also found that just days earlier, the man watched an online video showing just how hot the inside of a car can get in a half-hour.

Harris's lawyers argued that Cooper's death was a "tragic accident" that resulted from a "lapse in memory." 

Here's what happened: Instead of dropping Cooper at daycare, Harris drove to Chick-fil-A for breakfast, then to the Home Depot, where he worked, all the while leaving the boy in his car seat. 

More from CafeMom: This Is What 15 Minutes in a Hot Car Does to Your Toddler (VIDEO)

Clearly, if this man were sexting a half-dozen women, he was juggling a lot, but how on earth could he have forgotten about his own child, even in the midst of his sexual dalliances? 

It wasn't until after 4 p.m. that day, when Harris was on his way to see a movie, that he realized that his son was still in the car. Witnesses who saw him pull the boy's lifeless body from the SUV recalled that the dad was distraught and screaming.

What we want to know is how Harris expected people, including the judge and jurors, to believe that he never once thought about his son that day? Many parents, when they look at the clock, whether they're at work or at home, think to themselves, Now Johnny is at gym, or, Sally probably just went down for her nap. You picture them when you're not there with them and it warms your heart and gives you a sense of connection though you're apart.

How, also, did Harris expect us to believe that he never noticed his own child in his car seat? 

Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring made that point quite clearly when he stated: "If this child was visible in that car that is not a failure in memory systems. Cooper would have been visible to anyone inside that car. Flat out."

It breaks our hearts that no one else entering that store noticed the child when there was still time to save his life.

More from CafeMom: 7 Tips to Ensure You Don't Leave Your Baby in a Hot Car (Yes, You)

In an odd twist, Leanna Taylor, Harris's ex-wife and Cooper's mom, testified in his defense, noting that while the couple had intimacy issues, Harris was a "very involved" parent. Her only explanation for his horrific behavior was that he "forgot" Cooper.

Losing a child is every parent's worst nightmare. We truly feel for Cooper's mom, who will never see her beautiful boy alive again. We have to wonder if it is easier for her to believe her ex simply forgot the child rather than that he intentionally murdered him. 

We know accidents happen and there are times when all parents are forgetful, but not like this. We're talking about running to answer the phone or the door and your toddler rolls off the couch. Everyone has small lapses in judgement, but deviating from your routine and not dropping off your child at daycare, and instead leaving him to die a horrible death in a hot car, does not sound like an accident. 

There have been far too many hot car–related deaths to count in recent years and we hope that this verdict serves as a wake-up call for all parents and caregivers. Yes, this was different from an honest accident or a momentary lapse of judgement because this was indeed determined to be intentional. But there's no excuse to leave a child -- especially a toddler -- alone in a car. Ever. It's a message we've heard hundreds of times but if it saves one child, it's worth repeating. 

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