Prosecutors: Ross Harris spoke of 'needing escape' morning of hot car death

Sexting charges will be allowed during trial


MARIETTA, Ga.-- A judge has denied a motion to sever counts related to alleged sexting in the trial of a man accused of intentionally leaving his son in a hot car.

Attorneys for Ross Harris argued Monday that murder charges should be split from 3 charges related to allegedly sexting with  a minor. Cobb County police say Harris exchanged explicit pictures with a 17-year-old girl on the day of his son's death. 

In Monday's hearing, prosecutors shared new details of what they was an ongoing online relationship Harris had with an underage girl. 

The communication between Harris and the girl known as "C.B." happened through a messenger app called Kik. Lead Cobb County Police investigator Phil Stoddard testified "C.B." and Harris first met online in August or September of 2013 when she was 16. She sent him an anonymous message through another app called Whisper. According to police, Harris knew the girl was in high school, but he mislead her about his real age. 

According to investigators, Harris and C.B. never met in person, but the two exchanged naked photos on the day that 22-month-old Cooper died in the back of Harris' car. 

About 10 minutes before Cooper was left in the car, investigators said Harris used an app called Whisper and responded to a woman writing about how she didn't want to be a wife or mother anymore.

"He responds at 9:15 that morning, 'My wife gets upset when I want to go out with friends,'" Stoddard testified.

"And did he make another statement that specifically goes to motive." the prosecutor asked.

"He does. 'I love my son and all but we both need escapes.' And that was done at 9:15:33," Stoddard said.

At that time, according to records and video, Harris was at Chick-fil-A having breakfast with Cooper, Stoddard testified.

Prosecutors said C.B. was one of several women Harris sexted with -- even after being told by some that they were underage.

Police say they are still tracking down and identifying  the women they say Harris had explicit interactions with.

Defense attorney Maddox Gilgore argued that "the state wants to bootstrap every bad act they can come up with to suggest some grand scheme that doesn't exist."

Prosecutors said that they are establishing a motive in the case and that Harris "wanted to be free of his family relationship."

INDICTMENT | Read the full murder indictment



Count 6 charges Harris with criminal attempt to comment a felony Sexual Exploitation of Children when he allegedly asked a girl under the age of 18 to send him a nude photo. 


Count 7 charges Harris with the Dissemination of Harmful Materials to Minors when he sent a minor verbal and narrative accounts of "sexual excitement and sexual conduct".

Count 8 charges Harris with a second county of Dissemination related to a nude photo sent to an underage girl of his "portion of the human body which depicted explicit nudity".

In a pre-trial hearing last month, new details emerged about what Ross Harris told authorities moments after discovering his son dead in the backseat of his car. At the end of that hearing, the judge ruled she would allow all statements to be used in the trial. 

The judge said she'd like the trial to begin on Feb. 22. Defense attorneys said they weren't sure they could be ready by then.


COURTROOM PHOTOS | Ross Harris pretrial hearings

PHOTOS: Justin Ross Harris July 3 court hearing






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