Authorities searched dead toddler’s father’s office before arrest

It may be weeks before man could get out of jail after son dies in hot car

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In the hours after a distraught father was taken away in handcuffs, Cobb County investigators searched the man’s workplace for clues to the death of his 22-month-old son.

Search warrants were executed at the Home Depot office where Justin Ross Harris worked and where he told police he was when he forgot his toddler was strapped into his carseat, Channel 2 Action News reported Friday. Details about what was found have not been released. But within five hours of young Cooper Harris being declared dead in a shopping center parking lot Wednesday afternoon, his father was arrested and charged with felony murder and cruelty to children.

Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, was arrested at 10 p.m. Wednesday night and was denied bond Thursday night due to the seriousness of the charges. Magistrate Judge John Strauss said Georgia law prohibits him from granting bond for the two felony charges. Harris will remain in the Cobb County jail without bond until at least July 15, when he’s scheduled to again stand before a Superior Court judge.

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.

Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds and police have confirmed the investigation is not over, and the results of an autopsy on the child were not available Friday. Home Depot said in a statement that the company is cooperating with investigators.

Reynolds defended the charges Thursday, explaining that when a suspect is charged with a felony — such as cruelty to children in the first degree — which results in the loss of life, a murder charge is appropriate.

Harris’ arrest, and steep charges, has set off an online debate, as well as a grassroots petition aiming to get the murder charge dropped. Thousands have signed

an online petition on the site directed to Reynolds.

“This is a horrible accident,” the petition states. “The father loved his son immensely. These were very loving parents who are devastated. Justin already has to live with a punishment worse than death.”

One of those petition signers, Maria Nelson, said she is a Cobb County property owner and doesn’t know the Harris family and all of the details in the case. But Nelson, of Sandy Springs, said leaving a toddler in the car is the type of accident that could happen to anyone.

“It’s not necessarily serving the community to use taxpayer dollars to prosecute a case like this,” Nelson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Where does it end when we start judging parents for accidents?”

Other supporters have set up a fundraising account for the family on the website. Family photos on the site show a smiling father holding his young son at a Braves game and a family of three dressed in University of Alabama attire. Harris is a 2012 graduate of the university, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Funeral arrangements for Cooper Harris have not yet been announced.