Cops: Mom says she too researched child deaths in hot cars

ATLANTA - The mother of a toddler who died locked inside a sweltering SUV said that like her husband, she did online research on how long it would take a child to die in a hot car because she feared it would happen, according to a search warrant released Sunday.

Leanna Harris hasn't been charged in the death of her son, 22-month-old Cooper, and police have not called her a suspect. But the search warrant said the woman went onto the Internet before the boy's death to search for information about children dying in cars.

"Leanna Harris, the child's mother, was also questioned regarding the incident and made similar statements regarding researching in car deaths and how it occurs," said search warrant affidavits obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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

Justin Ross Harris, 33, has told police he was supposed to drive his son to day care that morning but drove to work in suburban Atlanta 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 filed the day after the child died.

Police have said that Harris returned to his car at lunchtime, opened the driver's side door to place an object inside and then went back inside his workplace. The toddler was inside the car at the time, police said.

In an interview after his son's death, Harris told investigators that he had also done an online search on what temperature could cause a child's death in a vehicle. He said he did the research because he was afraid it could happen. The warrant didn't specify when Harris did the searches.

Flowers cover the grave of Cooper Harris at the Tuscaloosa Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday, June 28, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Butch Dill, AP

Justin Harris is charged with murder and second-degree child cruelty. He was not allowed to attend his son's funeral Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but called the ceremony from the Cobb County Jail in Marietta, Georgia, where he is being held without bond.

Using a speaker phone, Harris thanked people for their support since his son's death.

Police said last week that their investigation indicates Cooper's death was not a case of "simple negligence."

A statement released by Cobb County Chief of Police John Houser Wednesday night said that during the course of the investigation, "detectives began to obtain physical evidence and testimonial evidence that lead them to believe a more serious crime has been committed."