Justin Ross Harris made an emotional phone call from jail to his son’s funeral Saturday amid charges he intentionally left the 22-month-old, Cooper, in a hot SUV for hours.
According to WSB-TV’s Liz Artz, who was in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the funeral, Harris made the call using a speakerphone from the Cobb County Jail.
Artz said Harris’ wife, Leanna, also spoke at the funeral but she was not as emotional as her husband.
A family friend got on stage with Cooper’s mother and asked the crowd of nearly 200 people to give Ross Harris a round of applause. Leanna said God was holding her up through this time. She said she'll miss her son forever, but now he will not have to deal with heartbreak, worry about awkward stages or deal with middle or high school.
Leanna told mourners she is not angry at her husband and called him a great father and great leader for Cooper. Leanna went on to say she would not bring Cooper back into this selfish world.
Ross Harris' father also spoke to the crowd, saying his son Ross had a dream Cooper was sitting on Jesus’ lap looking down at them, before the boy's death. Harris told him he was playing a guitar in the dream and Leanna was working in a nursery with other children.
The service lasted more than an hour.
Cooper's grandfather said nobody loved and worshiped the child as much as his father. He said Cooper's father called him "his handsome little devil.
Harris is accused of leaving Cooper in his SUV for hours in a shopping center parking lot on June 18. He's charged with murder and second-degree child cruelty, which is also a felony.
According documents released Saturday, Harris did online research into child deaths inside vehicles.
“During an interview with Justin, he stated that he recently researched, through the internet, child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur,” according to search warrants. “Justin stated that he was fearful that this could happen.”
Harris told police he was on his way to meet friends after work when he realized his son was in the back seat and pulled into a shopping center to get help, according to the warrants.
Police have said facts in the case "do not point toward simple negligence."
A previously released arrest warrant stated that Harris stopped with his son for breakfast and returned to put something inside his car during the day while the child was still inside. The Cobb County Medical Examiner's Office stated Wednesday that the cause of Cooper Harris' death was hyperthermia and manner of death was homicide.
The temperature that day was 88 degrees at 5:16 p.m., according to a warrant filed the day after the child died.
Police searched the Marietta condo where the family lives, looking for a laptop, electronic devices, documents, photographs and any "evidence of child neglect, child abuse." They also searched Harris' cellphone and the light blue 2011 Hyundai Tucson he was driving when his son died.
Police said in the warrants that they were searching for trace evidence including hair, fingerprints, blood or DNA inside the car and any computers, electronic devices or paperwork "related to the crime of Homicide and Cruelty to Children."
In an obituary published this week, the child's family said Justin Ross Harris and his wife, Leanna, were "the most proud parents there could ever have been."
Cooper Harris loved trucks and cars, had just learned the color red and was a happy baby, it read.
"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 obituary read.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.