Attention shifts to mother in hot car death of Cobb County boy

COBB COUNTY, Ga. – Attention has shifted to the mother of a 22-month-old child who died after his father left him in a hot car.

Ross Harris, 33, is charged with felony murder and child cruelty in the second-degree in the death of his son, Cooper. He claims that he forgot to drop his son off at daycare before heading to work on June 18. Cooper Harris spent nearly seven hours in the SUV as temperatures rose to 88 degrees, according to warrants.

A judge found probable cause for the charges and did not grant bond to Harris in a hearing on Thursday. He remains at Cobb County Jail.

RELATED | Defense: Ross Harris a 'loving' father who made a mistake

Authorities won't say if an arrest warrant has been obtained for Harris' wife, Leanna. It's not known if police believe she had anything to do with the death of Cooper. She has not been charged with any crimes.

During Thursday's court hearing, Cobb County investigator Phil Stoddard said that Leanna didn't rush to her child – or even ask to see him. Leanna only wanted to know about her husband, Stoddard testified.

At the police station, she asked Ross if he said too much. And earlier in the day, after finding that her son had never been dropped off at the daycare, she immediately told workers that her husband must have left Cooper in the vehicle.

Stoddard also testified that after Ross Harris described Cooper's body as looking "peaceful," he told Leanna "I dreaded how he would look."

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But criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Jerry Froelich says suspicion is not enough to make an arrest. He also warns many of the statements presented could have been taken out of context.

According to warrants, both Leanna and Ross Harris admitted to researching hot car deaths online.

Froelich says Ross Harris could have done it before. Not for hours, by maybe minutes, which would explain her response and even the couple's online research.

"What you say, why you hear it isn't what came out of your mouth or what they hear isn't what they repeat. So hearsay is a very, very dangerous thing," said Froelich.

And Froelich points out, even if she knew, knowledge within itself is not a crime.

"If you know a crime is going to be haven't violated the law. Now if you cooperate in any way in the helping that crime, that's aiding and abetting," he added.

Froelich believes a lot of what we heard at the father's probable cause hearing, won't be allowed at trial. He says it was presented to pressure witnesses and change public opinion.

Police could have intentionally waited until after Harris' hearing to arrest Leanna, wanting her to be in the courtroom to hear about his alleged double life. Stoddard testified Ross has been sexting multiple women, even an underage girl.

RELATED | Prosecutors: Father accused in hot car death lived double life

Even with allegations Ross Harris was leading a double life, former classmate Kristen Riker says she refuses to rush to judgment. She hopes the rest of the community will take a step back and do the same.

"He was very family oriented, nice, great guy. Hard working. He went back to school so he could support his family with a good job," said Riker.

So far Leanna has defended Ross Harris as a good father, but it could certainly bolster the prosecution's case if she were willing to testify against him.


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