As a kid in Tuscaloosa, Ross Harris was a study in contrasts: a confirmed prankster who once stole the “Entering Tuscaloosa” sign, and a devoted churchgoer who kept attending services even after his parents stopped.
According to police, Harris still has two sides, which could hardly be more radically at odds.
One is the face he showed the world, of a doting father and family man.
The other is a serial texter of sexually explicit messages, an unfaithful husband and, authorities charge, the intentional murderer of his own son.
An eight-count indictment returned last week charges Harris with killing 22-month-old Cooper by purposely leaving him in a sweltering car for seven hours. Harris is expected to enter a plea in a few weeks, by which time prosecutors say they will decide whether to seek the death penalty.
So just who is Justin Ross Harris? Much more will certainly emerge at the trial, but that is months away. So the AJC reached out to those who knew him best, and they gave intimate, sometimes startling glimpses into his life.
Harris’ half-brother, Michael Baygents, told of the time when Harris, then 13, convinced Baygents, who was 18, to attend a church revival meeting. At the end of the service, Baygents raised his hand, agreeing to commit himself to Jesus Christ.
An elated Harris wrapped his arms around his brother before he made his trip to the altar. “It’s one of my fondest memories,” Baygents said.
On the other hand, longtime family friend Angie Bond said she didn’t much like Harris when introduced to him by her friend, Leanna Taylor (now Leanna Harris). Bond, now a fervent supporter of Harris, said he initially struck her as an irritating “know it all.”
In case you missed it, click here to read the full, in-depth look at Ross and Leanna Harris, which appeared in Sunday’s print edition.
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