Ross Harris breaks down as testimony details son’s death in hot car

Ross Harris breaks down as testimony details son’s death in hot car

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WSB-TV
Justin Ross Harris breaks down while listening to a description of what his son's Cooper would have felt in the final hours before his death. Brian Frist, who in 2014 was the Cobb County Chief Medical Examiner, had been testifying during the murder trial of Justin Ross Harris at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. (screen capture via WSB-TV)

Jurors in the hot car death trial endured a wrenching morning of testimony in which they were shown 34 autopsy photos of 22-month-old Cooper Harris.

The boy’s father, Ross Harris, wept as former Cobb County Medical Examiner Brian Frist detailed Cooper’s final hours. Harris is accused of intentionally leaving his son inside his SUV to die.

His death was prolonged, Frist said. Just how long it took is unknown.

Frist said he was told by a Cobb police officer that the temperature inside the car remained in the 90s throughout the morning of June 18, 2014.

“He could’ve survived that,” Frist said. He could not say with any certainty whether Cooper would’ve been alive when Harris stopped by his car to drop off some light bulbs some four hours after leaving his son locked inside.

The high temperature that day reached 92 degrees outside; some estimates had the temperature inside the 2011 Hyundai Tucson at or near 140 degrees.

Regardless of how long it took, Cooper’s death was agonizing, Frist testified.

“I believe he went through various stages as he was passing,” he said. “He would’ve experienced nausea, a headache, dehydration, seizures, anxiety …”

Frist said he doubted there would’ve been any odor of decomposition, as three Cobb police officers have already testified, emanating from the vehicle.

“I don’t believe you have decomposition of smells per se,” he said. “I don’t think that type of smell was there. But when we get to 4 p.m. in the afternoon you’d have a stale odor of someone who had been breathing a long period of time, sweating a long period of time, gases released from GI tract, urinating.”

He described a stale odor, “a different smell than normal.”

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