Cooper Harris was one-year-old when he was killed in the back of his father’s car. Left in the car for over eight hours with temperatures of above 90, he perished. His father Justin Ross Harris was convicted of his murder, his mother walked free. Was his death a deliberate act of murder or forgotten baby syndrome? Was his mother Leanna Harris part of the plot to murder her son, or a victim?
Forgotten baby syndrome claims the life of 37 children a year on average. Parents who have been awake all night, barely function, forget about their children. Their exhaustion causes brain fog. It is a tragedy that happens to families, but is this what happened to the beautiful Cooper?
The Fateful Day
Justin Ross known as Ross, and Leanna met when she was 20-years-old. The Georgia couple struggled to have their first child. When she learned she was pregnant the couple stated they had been given a miracle.
On June 18th 2014, Ross was meant to drop his son off at daycare on his way to work. This was the couple’s routine, he dropped Cooper off and Leanna would pick him up after work at 4 pm. Instead of dropping Cooper off, Ross drove straight past daycare and continued to work. Ross parks his car at work, 30 seconds later he leaves his car and walks into work, leaving Cooper in the back seat.
At 415pm, he can be seen leaving work again and getting into his car. He drives out of the parking lot and appears to be unaware of his son’s now dead body. He drives for 1.5 miles before pulling over, realising his son is there. He gets out of the car and frantically starts asking people to help him, at this point a witness calls the police.
At 4 pm, Leanna walks into daycare as normal. She discovers that her son is missing. Footage again shows her extremely calm as she tries to locate him. She stated that her first thought was that he had been kidnapped. When she speaks to the desk, she is informed that he had not been dropped off. Her first statement was, “maybe Ross left him in the car.”
Many people consider this a very strange thing to say as an initial reaction.
Leanna then proceeds to make her way to where Ross works. On the way she receives a phone call from a detective to ask her to stay where she is, as he would come to her. When the officer arrives he speaks these fateful words:
There is no easy way to tell you this your child is deceased.
Leanna’s first words were to ask, “where is my husband?” Again many considered this to be a strange statement.
Later she is observed offering Ross comfort in the police cell and cuddling him. Many mothers have questioned whether they would have been able to do this, knowing their husband had killed their child. At no time does she show any malice towards Ross, she is seen to be nurturing and caring towards him.
The Evidence Mounts Up
During this first interview, Ross failed to tell the police several factors. It was these and other factors that were uncovered that led to the police charging him with murder. Police ruled Leanna out as a suspect, early on.
On the morning of the 18th, CCTV shows that Ross stopped off at Chick-fil-A. He is seen carrying Cooper in his arms and they both enjoy breakfast. Afterwards, Ross drives his Hyundai Tucson, the one mile to his Home Depot office and leaves Cooper in the car. He said that he forgot him because he was asleep. It seems unlikely Cooper would have fallen asleep within one mile of the restaurant. It would also seem unlikely he would forget his child having just had breakfast with him. There are six inches between Cooper’s seat and that of the front seat.
At 1230pm, Ross went out for lunch with some friends, where he purchased some bulbs. Returning to work, he returned to his car and placed the bulbs in the front seat, still failing to notice his son.
When Ross discovered Cooper dead in his car, it was a passerby who gave the infant CPR. Ross was observed on Police cameras walking around the car park talking on his mobile phone. He also stated that he did not want to see Cooper taken out of the car because he wondered what he would look like. It seems Ross knew that Cooper was dead at this point. His behaviour continued to raise suspicions.
At this point, he was considered a suspect and placed in a police car. He reportedly complained about how hot the car was and that there was no air.
The most damning evidence though came from his phone. During the day, records showed that whilst his son was dying in the car, Ross texted illicit pictures to a total of 9 people, some of them underage.
One year later, it was discovered that Ross had an account on Whisper. Whisper is an anonymous message platform. Within the messages uncovered, Ross told someone else that he was unhappy in his marriage. The most damning message stated:
I love my son and all, but we both need to escape.
Justin Ross Harris was found guilty of a number of crimes on 14th November 2016. Charges including felony murder, cruelty to children and sexual exploitation of a minor. He was sentenced to life without parole.
He continues to proclaim his innocence. He states his trial was unfair as the jurors were told about his infidelity early on. The appeal for his sentence has been scheduled for December 2020 on these grounds. If overturned it is a matter of opinion whether this will result in a child murderer being set free. It is also the opinion of some, that one of the murderers have been free all this time, Leanna.
Despite divorcing her husband in Feb 2016 she still defends his innocence.
Did Cooper die from Forgotten Baby Syndrome or was he murdered by parents who wanted out of a dysfunctional marriage, without a child?