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Cops: Evidence Shows Dad Knew Son was Trapped in Car; Just In: Toddler Died Of Hyperthermia
Aired June 25, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... he had actually killed his wife. And it had finally broke down based on the shape of an "F" and an "L" and an "R" and
just scratchings on a piece of paper.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Breaking news tonight, a news conference about to begin any second now with grisly, shocking new details in the case of a
toddler who died a horrible and I mean horrible death while trapped for seven hours in his dad`s extremely hot car. Police released new
information that have cops treating this as an intentional crime, not an accident. And that is sparking a whole new level of outrage.
Good evening, I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live with fast-breaking new details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evidence shows Justin Ross Harris knew his 22-month-old son was in his sweltering SUV, sources tell CNN affiliate WSB.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harris claims he forgot to drop his son off at day care. The warrant says he returned to put something inside the car at
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is impossible for this to have been intentional, especially from the father`s reaction. You could feel his
sorrow and his hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s fully aware of what he`s charged with. He`ll be entering a plea of not guilty at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops say surveillance video proves the dead boy`s dad is lying. Cops say at lunchtime the dad was captured on surveillance video
walking out of his office to his car parked outside in the parking lot. He opens the driver`s side door, puts something in that car, and as his young
son remains strapped in the car seat in the back either dead or dying, the dad goes right back to work, leaving the child there.
Cops have also revealed that morning on the way to work, Justin Harris took his toddler son to breakfast at Chick-Fil-A. Cops say as the dad left the
restaurant, he strapped his child into the car seat for a very short ride, less than a mile to work. So how did the dad forget his son in the very
few minutes between the restaurant and his office? So many questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARTYKA EASTLAND, WITNESS: He screamed, "What have I done?" loudly. Obviously, it was a bit dramatic. You know, hands in the air, looking up
towards the sky, "What have I done?" type of -- type of thing. Then he would calm down and be really relaxed. And then he would do the whole
"What have I done?" thing again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was one of the witnesses when the dad finally pulls his child out of the car hours later. Doesn`t sound like she buys his
He has pleaded not guilty. His attorney invited on our show any time at all. We want to get all sides of this case.
Especially from you at home. What do you think? Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.
My Lion`s Den panel is ready to debate all of this. But first I want to go to our own Victor Blackwell, CNN correspondent. You are there live at Cobb
County Police headquarters in Marietta, Georgia. That`s where a news conference is about to take place any second now. What`s the latest
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, Jane, let me tell you what`s happening right now. Just a few hundred yards away, we`ve got a
couple of producers who are working with me on this story. As soon as they get information from the spokesperson who`s speaking to the group of
reporters here, I`ve got this earpiece, they`re going to give me the very latest. So if I`m interrupted, that`s why.
I want you also to know the big word that came out today from the medical examiner`s office, "homicide." Homicide. In the manner of death category,
they`ve now found that this was a homicide. Cause of death, hyperthermia, the overheating of the body.
However, the official manner of death and cause of death will not be released just yet, but they say that the injuries are consistent with
homicide as the manner of death and hyperthermia as the cause of death, Jane.
Also we learned today from a new warrant that was issued that Justin Ross Harris was seen going back to his vehicle around lunchtime, going into that
vehicle, reaching in, placing something in, while police say that boy was sweltering in the back of the car, likely already dead -- Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Two big developments, and once again, any second now, we`re going to have a news conference begin down there in Georgia. And it
could bring us even more shocking details.
But here are the big two today. OK? And it has us asking, is Dad going to stick to his story that he simply forgot about his little boy for seven
hours? He has pleaded not guilty.
Justin Ross Harris, 33 years old, Web designer, took his son to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast. OK. He then strapped him in his rear-facing child car seat
and drove just a half a mile to the office, leaving little Cooper inside that car. OK? So cops are suggesting tonight that he left the boy there
The latest warrant reads, "During lunch, the accused accessed the same vehicle through the driver`s side door to place an object into the vehicle.
The accused then closed the door and left the car, reentering his place of business." Again, the child remains inside. Is it possible that he didn`t
notice that his child was in the rear-facing seat?
OK. Shortly after 4 p.m., dad leaves work and drives about three miles before just screeching into a busy strip mall parking lot. Witnesses say
Dad was in hysterics as he grabbed his son`s lifeless body from the car. But some witnesses are suggesting it was all an act.
Now, Alicia Johnson, one of our producers, is down there in the very shopping mall where dad ripped his lifeless son out of the car and started
screaming, "What have I done? What have I done?"
Alicia, you`ve been talking to a man who works at a pizza parlor there who witnessed that very moment when Dad`s pulling the son out of the car. What
did he tell you?
ALICIA JOHNSON, HLN PRODUCER (via phone): That`s right, Jane. I spoke with a chef at a local pizza joint earlier this afternoon. He told me he
heard tires screeching and when he went outside, he saw Justin. And Justin was screaming at the top of his lungs, "What have I done? What have I
Now, in this witness`s opinion, the father was overacting or putting on a show. He did not get the impression that the father was being sincere. He
said, he himself, though, was more choked up than the dad was and that the dad was not crying at all.
He says the father initially said that the child had been choking, but the child did not look like he was choking. He was soaking wet and looked like
he had been in a pool. He says -- he can`t say for sure or not if the dad had anything to do with it, but he felt that he was really putting on a
show and that his mug shot, when he went back to look at it online, he said it looked like pure evil. And he felt like his father was really just
pulling into that parking lot so people would see him and feel sorry for him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s go out to the Lion`s Den as we wait for this news conference to start and debate the two big pieces of news. OK?
A, and I`ll start with Lisa Lockwood, one of America`s premier investigators, author of "Undercover Angel." One is the dad stops at
Chick-Fil-A on the way to work. And the word says after eating he straps his son into the car seat and then drives less than a mile to work, half a
mile or something like that. And then in that time he forgets?
And the second thing is at lunch, there is believed to be surveillance video that records him leaving his office, going to that car, opening the
door, putting something inside, and then leaving again with the child remaining inside that roasting car. We`re going to talk about how hot it
got in a second. But what is your analysis?
LISA LOCKWOOD, INVESTIGATOR: Boy, this stinks all the way around. Full circle.
The child was seen alive. We are first concerned -- was the child deceased prior to this happening? Now we know the child was alive, because we have
that footage from Chick-Fil-A.
In a few -- in a matter of a few minutes of arriving at work, you`re telling me that this man completely forgot this child was in the backseat?
And witness testimony stating upon arrival and finding that child, he was saying it was choking. Well, guess what? Somebody also said rigor mortis
had set in. The child would not have been choking if it had been deceased for a matter of hours.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Connie from Oklahoma asking, "Was there life insurance on the child?" You know, many, many questions, Evangeline Gomez.
People cannot understand.
Again, we don`t want to convict him. He`s pleaded not guilty. We`ve called his attorney. He`s invited on any time.
But the cops are treating this as an intentional crime. Who on earth would take their precious, precious 22-month-old toddler and leave him to die a
torturous death? This is torture, if it happened -- well, it did happen. The question is was it intentional torture or accidental torture. Why?
So what are some of the possibilities that come to mind, hypothetically, when you think of a dad intentionally doing something like this, if indeed
it was intentional, as cops now believe?
EVANGELINE GOMEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If it`s intentional, perhaps there were problems that existed between he and his wife in their marriage.
We don`t know his background. Was he depressed? Was he on some mind- altering substance that morning? You know, there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.
But what`s interesting here is that the prosecutors have downgraded the charges. They no longer are saying that they need to show intent. They`re
saying this was negligence all around, and that`s all they need to prove.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this, Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist. And by the way, the news conference is going to start any second now. So we might
break away for that.
This guy is a web designer at Home Depot. He has absolutely no criminal record, no history of bankruptcy. He`s been married to his wife
approximately eight years. We`re going to read the obit in a second, and we have to ask -- it sounds very supportive of this dad. So we don`t know
if the mom is supporting him or not, because she`s not saying a word.
But all the neighbors say they pay their rent on time. They were happily - - they seemed happily married, a nice couple, loved their kid.
ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Yes. It`s mind-boggling. It`s mind- boggling, but there are stats that this kind of death does happen. And I believe according to some stats, there are up to 25 deaths a year.
And the theory is, if we don`t look at somebody intentionally doing this and forgetting, it has something to do with the car seat being in the back,
a child turned, you know, away so that the parent doesn`t necessarily see the child. They`re frazzled...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn`t matter. It`s a child.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s your own kid.
We`re going to take a very short break, because the news conference is starting. Right on the other side, we`re going to hear what cops have to
say. And for all we know, they have a whole bunch of other shocking details that they`re about to unload on us. Stay right there.
Our discussion going on on Facebook, and I`m going to read a whole bunch. It`s exploding. A bunch of Facebook comments on the other side. So stay
right there. Jane Velez-Mitchell, Facebook, join our conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detectives are also searching Harris` SUV for clues to determine what or who killed this little boy one week ago. Harris told
Atlanta area investigators he forgot to drop the toddler off at a daycare center on his way to work and only realized the boy was still strapped into
his car seat while driving home from work more than seven hours later.
(END VIDEO CILP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The news conference on the hot car death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris and the charging of his father, Justin Ross Harris, with a
murder has just begun. Let`s listen in. We`re all hearing this together. It`s just coming in now.
MIKE BOWMAN, COBB COUNTY POLICE PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE: My name is Mike Bowman, B-O-W-M-A-N. I`m with Cobb County Police public information
office, Marietta, Georgia. What we`re going to discuss today is the death of a 22-month-old that was left in the car.
The summary related to the death of the 22-month-old toddler. On Wednesday, June 18, 2014, uniformed officers were on routine patrol when
they entered the parking lot of Akers Mill Square, which was located at 2967 Cobb Parkway in Atlanta, Georgia.
Officers observed a crowd around a blue Saturn -- correction, a blue Hyundai Tucson. Officers immediately noticed that there was a small child
on the hot asphalt. They immediately started to render aid to that child, providing CPR. But tragically, they were too late, and the child was
deceased at the scene.
Detectives from the Crimes Against Persons, Crimes Against Children, Department of Family and Children Services and medical examiner`s office
responded to the scene and began their investigation.
The father, Justin Ross Harris, who was the immediate caregiver for the child, was taken to the Crimes Against Persons office located here at
headquarters at 140 North Marietta Parkway in Marietta, Georgia, where he was interviewed by detectives. Witnesses were interviewed at the scene.
The child`s mother was located and interviewed by detectives here at Cobb County Police headquarters.
Physical evidence obtained at the scene, combined with information gathered during the interview of Justin Harris, lead investigators to -- correctly,
led investigators to obtain warrants for his arrest. Two separate warrants have been obtained at this point of the investigation.
Cruelty to child, second-degree, which is a felony, states any person commits the offense of cruelty to children in the second degree when such
person, with criminal negligence, causes a child under the age of 18 cruel or excessive physical or mental pain.
He was also charged with felony murder, which states a person commits the offense of murder when, in the commission of a felony, he causes the death
of another human, being irrespective of malice.
Detectives have obtained several search warrants, and they are in the process of looking at that evidence, as well.
The autopsy results were released today. The autopsy was completed on June the 19th of 2014. The medical examiner`s office is waiting for toxicology
test results before making an official ruling as to the cause and manner of death.
However, the Cobb County medical examiner believes that the cause of death is consistent with hyperthermia, and the investigative information suggests
the manner of death is homicide.
Please understand that the homicide manner of death is a medical and legal designation. As a manner of death, homicide simply denotes death caused by
another. That was a release from the medical examiner`s office.
I will field a few questions at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you tell us about what Harris said about going to his car during lunch?
BOWMAN: That is all part of the investigation. It is actually on the warrant itself for his arrest. So the -- the information was given to the
detectives. Therefore, that statement was made.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell us about the search of his computer, showing that someone used his work computer to search for how long does it take for
an animal to die in a hot car?
BOWMAN: We`re not going to get into the specifics of the case. As I said, the search warrants have been applied for. There have SOME -- been some
search warrants that have been granted.
But as far as the execution of the search warrants and the evidentiary value of any information that`s obtained, that is not being released by the
Cobb County Police Department at this time. And that is merely speculation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of the message says that you got...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why charge him with murder one and a lesser charge?
BOWMAN: Let me back up just a second. Mr. Combs (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, thanks, Mike. We`re getting what seems like a mixed message. On the one hand, the child cruelty charges were downgraded
from first degree to second degree. And yet what we`re hearing from the chief in his letter is, he believes that there is more than just negligence
here, and we will see some of that in the evidence that`s presented in court.
BOWMAN: You`ve got to understand. The reason that the warrant was changed was the terminology that was used to support the factual evidence in the
case. And they wanted to make sure that the verbiage was correct to substantiate the charges that were being made.
There`s a difference between negligence and gross negligence, and what they`re going to show -- see, the thing about the negligence is anybody --
it could happen to anybody. The gross negligence shows that there`s some other circumstances revolving around this. So that`s why that statement
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it about this case that led you to charge him with, say, murder and not a lesser charge? The boy left in a car and it`s
BOWMAN: Again, you`re looking at the circumstances of the loss. I`m not going to get into the loss, because in all honesty, I haven`t -- the
technicality and the terminology of it. I don`t want to get into that. So that`s a question that you might want to when -- let me explain to you how
The investigators have to have probable cause in order to go and obtain charges. The detectives write up an affidavit for an arrest warrant with
their information outlined. They swear and affirm that all that information is correct, and they take it to a magistrate judge. The
magistrate judge is the one that determines which charges are appropriate at the time. That`s why we`ve got the charges we`ve got, because of the
evidence that has been received due to information in the interview and at the scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe the child was left in the car...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... calls for -- there was intent. Are you saying that Mr. Harris did not intend to kill his son?
BOWMAN: OK. Let`s not get into the semantics of what the law says, because I don`t have that in front of me. I don`t want to argue what the
wording is on the law. Let`s just leave it at this point that he has been charged with cruelty to children, second-degree, and felony murder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For leaving the child in the car on purpose?
BOWMAN: We`re not going into the specifics of the case at this time. Everything is still active and fluid, and this is an ongoing investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about the time line? The time line of events and how they were discovered by your investigators? How important -- what role
did that play in the charges?
BOWMAN: Again, that`s part of the evidentiary value. The detectives know the time line. They know when the individual is supposed to be at work and
when he stopped at the food restaurant and when he got to work and when he went to lunch and when he left from work. All of that is very -- if very
critical information to how the whole situation transpired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you tell us about surveillance video? How has it played into your investigation?
BOWMAN: Again, that`s part of the investigation. We`re not going to respond or answer any questions involving the involvement of any evidence
in the case. We can just say that there is evidence being looked at.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we looking for still in terms of information outstanding from the medical examiner`s office?
BOWMAN: My understanding is they are waiting, as the medical examiner`s report says that they are still waiting on toxicology reports. That report
could be done in a week, a month or six weeks. It all depends on their process. So I can`t give you a speculation of when it will be done. But,
yes, they`re still waiting on toxicology.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toxicology standard or a 22 (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
BOWMAN: Toxicology. You`d have to ask that question to the medical examiner`s office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The chief put out a letter kind of explaining his stance and really asking everybody to kind of take a deep breath, I guess,
in this case. Why did he feel that was necessary? And how is what`s happening maybe in social media, the community, maybe hampering what you
guys are doing?
BOWMAN: You`ve got to give the investigators some breathing room. They`ve got a lot of information that they`re trying to absorb. They`ve got a lot
of people to talk to. If you`ve picked up a copy of the report, there`s a lot of witnesses that were at the scene. There`s a lot of people, a lot of
evidence that they`ve got to discover.
When they`re doing the search warrants, there`s evidence that they`ve got to sort through. They`ve got to have time to be able to do what they do so
that this case is prosecuted properly. If the citizens jump to conclusions, we`re not -- this guy, you know, is entitled to a fair trial.
And if we give all the information out there, the public is not -- you`re not going to be able to find a jury that`s, you know, impartial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say to members of the community who...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, a news conference going on in Georgia. Authorities are releasing some very important information. The manner of
death is homicide. Also adding, the evidence does not point to simple negligence.
There were some other bombshells, actually, in this news conference. But you had to listen very carefully.
So we`re going to take a very short break. On the other side, we`re going to come back with a live report from the scene and a debate from our panel.
Did they pick up -- did you pick up on one of the questions that seemed to be very, very significant? But we don`t know. It`s just a question. Stay
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EASTLAND: He just screamed "What have I done?" loudly. Obviously, it was a bit dramatic. You know, hands in the air, looking up towards the sky.
"What have I done?" type of -- type of thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eastland said it was a horrifying scene, which she thought initially was a horrifying accident. Police believe it`s something
more sinister. They`re charged the 22-month-old`s father, Ross Harris, with murder. He`s being held without bond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was it murder or was it a horrible accident? This man has been charged with murder in the death of his 22-month-old son, who was
left, according to cops, in a car for seven hours to almost literally fry in horrible, horrible heat.
All right. Let`s go to Lawrence Kobilinsky, famed forensic scientist. You`ve been listening to the news conference where it was revealed the
manner of death is homicide, that they believe the toddler died of something called hyperthermia. What do you make of that?
LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, it appears to me, first of all, that the cause of death was hyperthermia, at least for the moment. We
need to have that toxicology report to rule that out, no poisoning or anything of that sort. But there`s no trauma to the body. There`s no
other explanation except for heatstroke.
And once the body reaches that inner core temperature of 107 degrees, it`s only a matter of time, because that heat is going to destroy enzymes and
proteins in the brain; and coma and death follows very quickly.
So I think cause of death is clear. Waiting for the tox report.
And as far as manner of death goes, well, now we know accident has been ruled out. Natural causes has been ruled out. So now the issue is
homicide. And that is based on a combination of the autopsy and what the police have told, have revealed to the medical examiner.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Cooper was abandoned inside his dad`s car at about 9 in the morning last Wednesday. It was 81 degrees outside.
Now, we have an animation for you that shows how rapidly the temperatures rise inside the car. It would have been over 100 degrees in just ten
minutes. The high temperature that day was 91 degrees outside. That means the air temperature inside the car could have easily topped 130 degrees.
How long did Cooper suffer? It`s unbelievable. Could he have been alive when cops say dad left his office at lunchtime to put something in the car
and then go back?
I want to go to Victor Blackwell, CNN correspondent in Atlanta. You`re there where this news conference has been going on. I thought one of the
most important things or the most eye-popping things to come out of it was a question asked by a reporter, referring to published reports that have
claimed that police sources are indicating that their search warrant execution revealed, purportedly, allegedly, that somebody used his work
computer to search how long it takes an animal to die in a hot car. We cannot independently confirm that. We want to stress that. But that was a
question voiced at this very public news conference. What do you know?
BLACKWELL: We`ve heard that accusation from sources. But, of course, we`re not reporting that, because we cannot confirm it. It didn`t reach
our level -- the standard to report it.
But you dipped out of the news conference and went to break just before one important question was asked and answered. We`ve asked for days now, where
is the mother in all of this?
Well, Officer Bowman says the child`s mother was here at Cobb County Police Department Headquarters and interviewed by a detective. Now, he did not
characterize the fruits of the conversation. But the mother was contacted and questioned. There was another question --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re losing you, so I want to ask you -- go ahead, we`ve got you back. Go ahead.
BLACKWELL: You got me back? OK. Another reporter asked, did Justin Ross Harris mean to leave, intend to leave his child in the car? Officer Bowman
did not speak about that. But I`ve got this statement from the chief of police here where he goes specifically to saying -- I`ll read one sentence.
Sometimes this happens. We`ve reported on it before.
But it says the chain of events that occurred in this case does not point towards simple negligence and evidence will be presented to support this
allegation. Although Officer Bowman would not say it, the chief says that there`s evidence. And we know some of that evidence was recorded at the
Chick-Fil-A security camera video, surveillance was handed over to the police. We learned that from Chick-Fil-A corporate managers.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Victor Blackwell, excellent reporting. Thank you. Stand by. I want to go to Philip Holloway, a former police officer and criminal
defense attorney. My understanding is you`re a former Cobb County prosecutor where all this is going down. Wow. We have the two shockers
about him basically having breakfast at Chick-Fil-A with this boy and then strapping him in and a couple of minutes later, oops, I forgot, go in to
work for hours.
The second shocker, he goes out and checks on the car, and then goes back into work leaving the child who may already be dead or may simply be dying.
Now we`re hearing this other shocking question which we can`t independently confirm. Published reports claim -- this was asked at the news conference
-- that police sources believe somebody used his work computer to search how long it takes an animal to die in a hot car. Put it together for us.
PHILIP HOLLOWAY, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: I wish I could put it completely together for you. For the last several days, they`ve been saying to us,
this case is going to go into a much worse phase. It`s something more sinister, dropping hints like that. And today we get this arrest warrant
where this officer`s sworn under oath that the defendant was acting with criminal negligence.
And then at the same time, you have this press conference going on, we have the police chief saying it was intentional and you`ve got other news media
outlets reporting there was a search about how long it takes a dog to die in a car or an animal. All those sort of things seem to point to
premeditation and deliberation. I don`t know a malice murder indictment isn`t out of the question. But it`s so confusing because of the different
statements. I just don`t know.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But why? A Facebook comment, just because he went back to the car at lunch doesn`t mean he did it on purpose. Diana says, this
evidence must be damning if they`re worried about finding an impartial jury. Weigh in on Facebook. We are taking a short break.
On the other side, we`ll talk about possible whys. If, if, if it was intentional, what on earth could have motivated this father to let his son
die this torturous death? And then Nancy Grace has more on this case at 8:00 right here on HLN.
But we are just getting started. We`ve got phone calls galore lining up on the outside and we are going to continue to dive deep into this as new
facts pour in from this news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Did this father in Georgia intentionally murder his 22-month-old son by abandoning him inside of this sweltering hot
SUV, for seven hours, that`s what investigators are saying about 33-year- old Justin Harris. But the father claims he forgot his son, Cooper, was in that car and he says he simply forgot to drop him off at daycare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An evolving theory on the part of the police about his level of involvement and culpability in his son`s death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, he forgot the child was in the car seat in the back of the automobile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever had to witness something like this in your life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a first and hopefully a last.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things aren`t always what they appear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a stunning turn of events, most everybody originally at the very first moments thought it was a terrible accident that this was
just a tragic case of oversight. He forgot his son in the car. Now it`s become far more sinister. Authorities issuing sort of dribs and drabs of
ever more sinister details.
We find out that now it`s been ruled, manner of death, homicide. They believe the child died of hypothermia. We learned that he had breakfast
with the kid in the morning and then strapped the child into the car seat. And within a couple of minutes, gets to work and says he forgot him.
Then at lunch he goes back out to the car and goes into the car and still doesn`t see the child strapped to the car seat and then goes back to work.
Seven hours later, approximately, he suddenly realizes on the way home and pulls into a very crowded shopping center where he starts creaming "what
have I done."
And some of the witnesses say it sounded phony, like he was acting. The very patient Veronica Waters, reporter of WST Atlanta, what did you think
was the most significant thing to come out of that news conference that just wrapped up?
VERONICA WATERS, WST REPORTER: I think what`s interesting is the fact that we`re still not seeing a malice murder count coming from Cobb County
police. We have heard the police chief say there was physical evidence and testimonial evidence that led them to believe that something was amiss
here. Yet, we saw a downgrading of the charges today. We saw the child cruelty count decreased from first degree to second degree. Yet the murder
count hasn`t been upped.
Police may believe while there was something more than negligence, is it possible they believe that Justin Harris didn`t see little Cooper suffering
in the backseat when he went into his SUV. He comes outside to the sweltering parking lot. He opens up the driver`s side door and puts some
object, we don`t know what, inside.
And then it`s possible he doesn`t look into the backseat and see the little boy there. Goes back into the office. It`s an interesting waiting game
we`ve been playing. We`re still waiting on the returns from the search warrants. Police aren`t even exactly telling us which ones that they`ve
actually executed yet. Have they searched the Harris home? We know they`ve searched that office. What did they find on those computer? We
want those returns.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Elizabeth Espinoza, CNN Espanol, out of L.A., you`re looking at a mock-up of what could have happened as temperatures could have
reached up to 130 degrees inside. Wouldn`t the dad have smelled something if this child was roasting in the back for hours where he came out?
ELIZABETH ESPINOZA, CNN ESPANOL: What about this? This is the little boy. I`m looking at him right now. How do you forget your kid? None of it
makes sense. Let me tell you something, you`re right, it`s all still pending. I understand detectives are investigating, searching everything.
But this is a possible theory. It could be that he wants to leave his wife. Maybe he was seeking a way out, a divorce. It`s disgusting but it`s
true. Some men will go to any length to get out of paying child support. And I wouldn`t be surprised if this ends up being part of the story.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is sheer speculation with all due respect. We don`t have any independent information about that at all. We know he`s married
eight years. And on the other side of the break, I`m going to read the obituary that was published in the paper today. It seems to indicate that
the family, that could include the mother of this dead child, is very supportive of her husband.
So I`m going to read that obit on the other side. You can analyze it. I`m just going to -- Jenna, Facebook, the tox report will be interesting. He
could have given him something to knock him out and make dying in a car more humane and make it look like an accident. Again, sheer speculation.
But everybody`s got their detective caps on. We`re trying to figure it out. A short break. Then we`ll come back and I`ll read this obit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A woman who claims she`s the child`s mother told CNN she`s been advised not to speak with the media. Witnesses say last
Wednesday afternoon, Harris veered into this parking lot --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopped out of the driver`s seat, opened the back door, pulled his child out, laid him on the concrete, tried to resuscitate him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE BOWMAN, COBB COUNTY POLICE: You`ve got to give the investigators some breathing room. They`ve got a lot of information that they`re trying to
absorb. They`ve got a lot of people to talk to. If you`ve picked up a copy of the report, there`s a lot of witnesses that were at the scene.
There`s a lot of people, a lot of evidence that they`ve got to discover. When they`re doing the search warrants, there`s evidence they have to sort
through. They`ve got to have time to be able to do what they do so that this case is prosecuted properly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did 33-year-old web designer, Justin Harris purposely leave his son in the car or did he just forget he was there, the child died
a horrible death. And there`s been so many new developments tonight.
We`re going to debate it. Let`s go out to the lion`s den and our panel. You`ve heard the news conference, Lisa Lockwood, investigator, author of
"Undercover Angel." A lot of our panelists saying, wait, we don`t know. We`ve been listening. What do you think?
LOCKWOOD: Well, the fact that he went out at lunchtime -- this is pure speculation and my hunch -- is that he went to find out if his son had
expired at that point. He probably wanted to hear, is he crying, had he passed on, and then went ahead and went back to work.
HOLLOWAY: I agree.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You agree, Philip Holloway and you`re a former Cobb County prosecutor. If that happened, that`s evil. Sheer evil.
HOLLOWAY: It absolutely is evil. I think I know why this case is charged this way. They`ve been calling the DA crazy in social media. But if he`s
crazy, he`s crazy like a fox. I know the man. He`s very smart, an intelligent lawyer. By charging it this way, he almost guarantees a murder
conviction because you get to murder much more easily by going through negligence than some type of premeditation.
Then that raises the issue of whether or not the death penalty is on the table. If he can prove that this was such a wantonly violent and horrific
crime, the case is eligible for death.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s a big if. He pleaded not guilty. His attorney is involved anytime --
GOMEZ: I didn`t hear you, Jane?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I thought you were jumping in. Let me read this. This is little Cooper`s obit that was just released. It includes a couple of
interesting lines. Quote, "Cooper was born on August 2nd, 2012, to the most proud parents there could ever have been. He was loved and cherished
and protected by both parents and all family members for his short 22 months of life. His 22 months of life were the most happy and fulfilling
times of his mother and father`s lives. We will miss him greatly."
It sounds like the family -- I would assume the mother would have some input into her own son`s obit. Sounds like she`s supporting her husband.
GOMEZ: Well, we can`t just go by the obit alone. She was investigated. We don`t know what information came out in that investigation. The
investigators aren`t letting any information get out because they don`t want the defendant to craft a defense based on the evidence that they have.
We can`t jump to conclusions. But what`s interesting here is the defense is actually going to call witnesses so they, this was a doting, loving
father. He wanted this son. He`s fit to parent. He has no prior criminal history and what they`re --
ESPINOZA: But how do you get around --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Elizabeth, go ahead.
ESPINOZA: Just doesn`t make sense. How do you get around defending -- when we found out that he went to the car at lunchtime, yes, you`re going
to smell something. You`re going to see a kid -- this is like a little mini SUV. So it`s raised up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s what makes it so horrific.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But they could also look at people who have left their kids in their car. And it does happen and study why it happens.
LOCKWOOD: He went to the car and he went from the front side -- because the car has tinted windows in the back, he didn`t hear or see anything?
That`s a big stretch, 2-year-olds -- almost 2 in this situation, they actually respond to sound. It`s difficult to believe that when daddy
wasn`t getting out of the car the child didn`t scream or --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cheryl, Florida, Cheryl has been waiting all hour to say something. Cheryl, Florida, quickly, what do you have to say?
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Have they interviewed his co-workers? Did anybody hear anything? I find it hard to believe the baby wasn`t crying and
somebody didn`t hear something.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s an interesting question. We`re going to look into it. Stay right there. We`ve got more information coming in by the second.
Join us on Jane Velez-Mitchell Facebook.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did 33-year-old web designer Justin Harris intentionally leave his child, his 22-month-old toddler, to die a torturous death
literally baking to death inside his car? Was it an accident, was it intentional? Let`s take a look at the mug shot. Robi Ludwig,
psychotherapist, is saying "I knew his mug shot something wasn`t right. How could you look calm after something like that?" Can you read into this
LUDWIG: No, you can`t. This father was probably in deep shock, feeling guilty. We just can`t tell. People look guilty in a mug shot, anyway. So
it`s very easy to read into it even though we don`t really know what the truth is.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to get back to I`d say the most provocative question of the news conference. Philip Holloway, again you`re a former
Cobb County prosecutor where this is happening. Somebody said, well, words of this effect, published reports say police sources say somebody used his
work computer to search how long it takes a hot animal to die in a hot car. What do you make of that question? We can`t independently confirmed that.
HOLLOWAY: CNN has not independently confirmed it, but a local TV station claims they have. If that`s true, that shows me there is premeditation,
there`s deliberation, the case may very well be tried as if it were a malice murder case to start with because I think they might be going after
the death penalty. If that turns out to be true, that can send this guy to the execution chamber.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s unimaginable. It`s unimaginable. This man deserves his day in court. We`ll be right back with more. We`ve got a lot more
coming at you on this just unthinkable case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reporter, Veronica Waters, what is the mood in Georgia over this horror?
WATERS: Jane, I would have to say there are several moods going on. First of all there is shock as some people come to the conclusion that they think
this was done deliberately. There`s frustration from those who say there`s no way that Justin Ross Harris would ever do anything like this.
There`s anger from the people who came out in full support of this guy before, saying this was nothing but a horrible accident and who are now
saying, I recant my support of this guy. I don`t believe it anymore.
There`s also some confusion from folks like you and me who are wondering why the prosecution team and why the police are being so tight-lipped.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll have much more on this tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.