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Judge denies bond to toddler’s dad in hot car death case
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Judge denies bond to toddler’s dad in hot car death case

Judge denies bond to toddler’s dad in hot car death case
Photo Credit: BILL TORPY/AJC
Leanna Harris, the mother of 22-month-old Cooper Harris (left), leaves the Cobb County courtroom Thursday. Her husband, Justin Ross Harris, was denied bond Thursday. He is charged with murder in the hot car death.

Judge denies bond to toddler’s dad in hot car death case

Fifteen days after a Cobb County father left his 22-month-old son inside an SUV for hours, testimony inside a packed courtroom Thursday revealed startling new details in the investigation of the child’s death.

Some in the courtroom were visibly shaken to hear contradictory portrayals of the man who said he accidentally left his son in his car seat for seven hours. And though some testimony hinted at the possibility of additional charges in the case, the father’s attorney questioned evidence against his client.

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

When the three-hour probable cause hearing ended, Justin Ross Harris was denied bond and returned to jail. His wife, holding back tears, was surrounded by family members and friends as she left the courtroom, avoiding any questions.

Magistrate Judge Frank Cox mentioned the possibility of a death-penalty case for the man accused of killing young Cooper on June 18.

It was the testimony from a Cobb County police detective that offered the most new information on the toddler’s last day, as well as his father’s character.

While his 22-month-old son was in his car seat in the backseat of his family’s SUV, a Cobb County father was allegedly sexting underage girls and went to lunch with two college friends, according to testimony Thursday afternoon. Harris told police he accidentally left his son in the SUV while he worked and only realized the boy was in the backseat in the minutes after leaving work, shortly after 4 p.m.

By the time Harris realized his son was still in his car seat, Cooper had likely been dead more than four hours, Detective Phil Stoddard testified. Investigators later determined Harris and his wife were having marital troubles.

Maddox Kilgore, attorney for Harris, argued that there was no evidence that the father intentionally left his young son in the family’s SUV for seven hours, and the arrest warrant should be dismissed.

“It’s not even criminal negligence enough to support a misdemeanor,” Kilgore told the court.

Two longtime friends of Harris both testified that nothing seemed out of the ordinary while they were with him on the day the toddler died. One friend, Alex Hall, testified he drove the three to get lunch and run an errand before dropping Harris off at his SUV, still parked at work.

Harris’ half-brother, Randy Michael Baygents, a police officer for nearly two decades, testified that Harris had solid ties to the community and should be released on bond.

“He’s a loving father,” he said. “He loved his son very much. He’s a good dad.”

In cross examination, the prosecutor told Baygents that his brother had been sexting underage girls.

“In law enforcement, we sometimes find out that people we know we really don’t know?” he said.

“Sometimes,” Baygents replied.

Kilgore told the court the child’s death was an accident and that charges should be dropped.

“An accident doesn’t become a crime because the results are catastrophic,” Kilgore said.

But Judge Frank Cox disagreed, ruling there was probable cause to hold Harris at the Cobb County jail and denied him bond.

According to Stoddard’s testimony, Harris watched videos on the Internet about deaths in hot cars five days before Cooper’s death. Stoddard testified for more than an hour, providing new details about the day Cooper died, as well as Harris’ personal life.

On the morning of the toddler’s death, Harris and his son ate breakfast at a Vinings Chick-fil-A, where Cooper was seen alert and happy, according to testimony. It was Harris’ normal routine to take his son to the daycare center at the Home Depot corporate headquarters, according to police. But after breakfast June 18, Harris drove instead to his office, located about a half-mile away from the restaurant.

Later the same day, Harris texted his wife, Leanna, to ask when she would be picking up “his buddy” from daycare. Leanna went to the daycare center that afternoon, but was told by daycare staff that Cooper had never been dropped off that morning, Stoddard said.

“Ross must’ve left him in the car,” Leanna Harris said in front of witnesses at the daycare, according to Stoddard.

Meanwhile, Ross Harris had left work and driven about five minutes when he said he realized his son was in the backseat, arrest warrants state. He drove into the parking lot of an Akers Mills Road shopping center, got Cooper out of the car and attempted to revive him. Harris didn’t call 911, Stoddard said. But instead, a witness at the scene did.

Leanna Harris was questioned, along with her husband, by investigators the evening of Cooper’s death. No charges were filed against her.

After learning of her son’s death, Leanna Harris showed no real emotion, Stoddard testified. Witnesses have said that Ross Harris was very upset after pulling into the parking lot. But some witness’ accounts differ, Stoddard said.

Harris didn’t tell police while being questioned that he left work for lunch, a detective testified. But investigators reviewed surveillance video from the Home Depot satellite office, where Harris worked, Stoddard testified.

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  • Christina Aguilera delivered a tribute to the late Whitney Houston that only a vocalist of her caliber could do. >> Read more trending news At Sunday night’s American Music Awards, Aguilera celebrated the 25th anniversary of Houston’s blockbuster movie “The Bodyguard” and it’s top-selling soundtrack. Related: Christina Aguilera to pay tribute to Whitney Houston, ‘The Bodyguard’ at AMAs Beginning her set in a black pantsuit and a singular spotlight, Aguilera sang the a capella opening of “I Will Always Love You,” transitioning to the big note before going into “I Have Nothing,” followed by “Run to You,” a song Houston herself has praised Aguilera for singing. Related: Christina Aguilera to pay tribute to Whitney Houston, ‘The Bodyguard’ at AMAs Assisted by a choir, Aguilera ended her tribute with “I’m Every Woman” recieving a standing ovation. Watch a clip of the performance below.
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The cuts included in the President’s budget have pretty much been ignored by lawmakers, and it took the White House three disaster aid bills before any offsetting budget cuts were proposed. Meanwhile, the yearly federal deficit is trending back up, and with the disaster relief bills, and an increase in the federal budget caps, there will be more red ink in 2018. Only a few Republicans have stuck with their familiar call for budget discipline. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit: “If this was a Democratic bill we wouldn’t even be voting for it. That’s how hypocritical this place has become.” https://t.co/H5FduNppVH — MainStream Coalition (@ksmainstream) November 17, 2017
  • A plant mistaken for marijuana led to a Butler County couple suing their police department for a wrongful drug bust. >> Read more trending news Audrey and Edward Cramer talked about that incident on Thursday as they announced the lawsuit. The Cramers said it all started when their insurance agent came to their Buffalo Township home for a property damage claim and took pictures of hibiscus plants. The agent thought they were marijuana and gave the pictures to police. Audrey Cramer could not hold back the tears as she described how three Buffalo Township police officers pulled her out of her home on Oct. 5 wearing only her underwear. 'I was not treated as though I was a human being. I was just something they were going to push aside,' she said. “I asked them again if I could put pants on and he told me no and I had to stand out on the porch.' The Cramers say that police thought they were growing marijuana in the backyard of their Garden Way home. When officers got a search warrant and went to their house, the Cramers say their home was ransacked and they were handcuffed and forced to sit in a police car for four hours. 'Sometimes I think they look for a crime where it doesn't exist in order to justify their existence,' Edward Cramer said. Edward Cramer says he tried to explain that the plants were hibiscus flowers. The couple's attorney, Al Lindsay, filed a lawsuit today on their behalf. 'I cannot understand the frame of reference that was on these police officers’ minds, what were they thinking,” Lindsay said. The Cramers say they never got an apology. Audrey says she has severe emotional trauma. 'I don't sleep at night,” she said. “And you don't leave me at the house by myself.' Channel 11 reached out to the Buffalo Township police and the township manager but they have yet to respond.
  • Channel 2 Action News has exclusive access to the planning, and the best view during the demolition. Channel 2's Chris Jose spoke to one of the people in charge of this big job Sunday night. Richard Adamo is the president of the Adamo Group, the company in charge of the implosion. 'Execution is everything. It's no different than being on the football field. We've done everything humanely possible to take into account, all of the little details, from fugitive dust to the neighbors across the street, the evaluation of the MARTA,' Adamo said. RELATED STORIES: WSB-TV has partnership to broadcast Georgia Dome implosion LIVE MARTA announces alternate service plan for Georgia Dome implosion Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be protected when the Georgia Dome comes down Georgia Dome implosion set for Nov. 20 at 7:30 a.m. The difference between between an implosion and a football game is practice. The implosion is just one shot. 'It's got to count. What we're relying on is experience and the fact that this project has been vetted,' Adamo explained. 'We have 4,800 pounds of dynamite total. 4,300 pounds of TNT, and 300 pounds of linear shaped charges. the linear shaped charges are gonna cut the ring. and the tnt is gonna do the rest on the concrete columns. The implosion is expected to last about 12 seconds. Adamo will be the one to push the button. WSB-TV is partnering with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority for a LIVE broadcast of the Georgia Dome demolition. WATCH Channel 2 Action News This Morning starting at 4:30 a.m. for LIVE Team 2 Coverage.