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Toddler's hot car death gets more mysterious

The mother of a toddler who died after being left in an SUV in Atlanta for seven hours told investigators she did online research on how hot it needs to be for a child to die in an unattended vehicle because she was afraid it might happen, police say.

Leanna Harris hasn't been charged in the death of her son, 22-month-old Cooper. But a search warrant released Sunday said the woman went onto the Internet before the child's death to search for information about children dying in cars.

Police say Cooper died after being left in the backseat of an SUV by his father, Justin Harris, on June 18.

Justin Harris, 33, has told police he was supposed to drive his son to day care that morning but drove to work without realizing that his son was strapped into a car seat in the back. The child was left in the car alone for about seven hours. The temperature that day was 88 degrees at 5:16 p.m., according to a police warrant.

In an interview after his son's death, Harris told investigators that he also had done an online search on what temperature could cause a child's death in a vehicle.

Harris is jailed on charges of murder and second-degree child cruelty. His arrest has made national headlines, sparked by a sharply divided debate over whether the felony charges were appropriate.

On the morning of June 18, Harris and his son left the family's condo and drove to a Chick-fil-A, where the two had breakfast, an arrest warrant states. The father then put his son back in a rear-facing car seat in the middle of the backseat and drove to work, less than a mile away.

When Harris got to work at a nearby Home Depot corporate office shortly after 9 a.m., he left the toddler in the backseat and went inside the building, according to police. He returned to the SUV at lunchtime, when he opened the driver's side door and put something inside. Then, Harris went back inside to work.

According to a search warrant, Harris left work and was headed to meet friends about 4:20 p.m. June 18 when he said he realized his son was still in the backseat of the family's Hyundai Tucson. Witnesses reported seeing Harris drive into a parking lot, stop the car and pull the boy out of the backseat.

"Oh my god what have I done," Harris screamed, according to witnesses.

Harris was taken to police headquarters for questioning, and within about five hours was arrested.

Toddler's hot car death gets more mysterious 06/29/14 [Last modified: Sunday, June 29, 2014 6:06pm]
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