Hours before a 22-month-old boy was found dead in a hot car, his father stopped for breakfast on his way to work, police say.
Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, was arrested Wednesday, June 18, and charged with murder and cruelty to children in the second degree, according to an updated arrest warrant obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Justin Harris told investigators he forgot to drop his son, Cooper Mills Harris, at daycare on Wednesday.
Ross Harris told police he drove to work at the Home Depot corporate office in Cobb County. He said he forgot the child was still in his carseat when he parked the SUV and went to work.
Harris told police he returned to the car around lunch time to place something in the car. Then he re-entered his work place.
“During lunch said accused did access the same vehicle through the driver’s side door to place an object into the vehicle,” the warrant states. “Said accused then closed the door and left the car, re-entering his place of business.”
Around 4:16 p.m., Harris told police he left work, and as he was driving away he noticed Cooper was still in his carseat. He said he drove to an Akers Mill Road shopping center and asked passersby for assistance. Cooper was unresponsive when Ross Harris took him out of the SUV and laid him on the pavement.
Police say inconsistencies in Ross Harris' story changed the course of the investigation in what was initially thought to be an accidental death.
Police believe Ross Harris knew Cooper was in the hot car. The warrant states he neglected to mention that he and his son stopped for breakfast at Chick-fil-A before he drove to work that morning.
“This is a very active, very fluid investigation,” Officer Mike Bowman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday. “Our detectives have worked tirelessly to resolve the leads in this case. They are doing due diligence.”
Ross Harris is being held without bond in the Cobb County jail. Sympathizers have contributed over $20,000 to a gofundme.com in Ross Harris' name.
“We know this is an emotional case,” Bowman said. “We know it’s weighing on heart strings.”
Cooper’s mother, Leanna Harris, has declined requests for a comment, according to the AJC.
Cooper's funeral will be held Saturday at the University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, according to an online obituary. A private family burial is planned.