Cobb toddler’s family: Cooper was cherished by both parents

He had just learned the color red and loved trucks and cars so much, he told them “bye” while driving away. Cooper Mills Harris would have celebrated his second birthday Aug. 2, according to an obituary placed by his family in a hometown newspaper.

Instead, the toddler’s friends and family will gather Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the boy’s funeral and burial. His father, Justin Ross Harris, who is accused of killing the toddler and remained jailed Thursday, will not be attending the funeral, a spokeswoman for the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office has said.

» Listen to Breakdown Season 2 on the Justin Ross Harris case here.

The obituary makes no mention of the ongoing investigation and lingering questions regarding Cooper’s death June 18 after he was left inside his father’s SUV for seven hours. It focuses on the happy little boy and the void he leaves behind.

“He was loved and cherished and protected by both parents and all family members for his short 22 months of life,” the obituary states. “His 22 months of life were the most happy and fulfilling times of his mother’s and father’s lives, and we will miss him greatly. The family rejoices in the fact that we know that our Cooper is in the arms of Jesus fully restored, protected and in perfect peace.”

The obituary published Thursday offered the first public statement from Cooper’s family since his death and his father’s arrest. Ross Harris was arrested within hours of his son being pronounced dead in the parking lot of a Cobb County shopping center. Harris told police he accidentally left his son in the backseat, still strapped into his carseat, while he went to work at a Home Depot office. He was charged with murder and cruelty to children in the second degree, both felonies.

Cooper’s mother, Leanna Harris, was questioned by police in the hours after the boy’s death. She has not been identified as a suspect.

Home Depot will pay for Cooper’s funeral costs through a company-sponsored grant program called The Homer Fund, a spokeswoman said Thursday. The grant covers up to $10,000 of funeral expenses, according to Catherine Woodling with Home Depot.

In lieu of flowers for Cooper’s funeral, his family requests that donations be made to The Homer Fund, the obituary states.

Funeral services for Cooper will be 1 p.m. Saturday at University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, with David Eldridge officiating. A private family burial will follow, with Tuscaloosa Memorial Chapel Funeral Home directing.

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