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Police seek medical records in Ga. tot's hot car death

ATLANTA - Newly released court records show police want to learn about the health of a toddler in the months before he died of heat exposure in his father's car near Atlanta.

Search warrants and affidavits released Monday show that investigators are seeking medical records for 22-month-old Cooper Harris, any medical conditions he may have had, and information about his growth and development.

The child's father, 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris, faces murder and child cruelty charges in the June 18 death. Harris has said he left the boy in the SUV for about seven hours after forgetting to drop him off at day care.

Harris hasn't been accused of past abuse. But Jessica Gabel, an associate professor of law at Georgia State University, says police often seek medical records to check for past signs of abuse in children.

Justin Ross Harris during his bond hearing, July 3, 2014 in Cobb County Magistrate Court. CBS Atlanta

According to police, Harris said that on the morning of June 18, he went to breakfast with his son at Chick-fil-A, then strapped the child into his car seat and gave him a kiss. Harris was supposed to drive the child to day care, but he told police he instead drove to work without realizing that his son was in the backseat.

New allegations emerged against Harris during a court hearing Thursday at which he was denied bond. Police alleged that Harris was "sexting" a 17-year-old girl while his son died in the hot car, and that he searched the Internet for "how to survive in prison" and had looked at websites that advocated living a "child-free" life.

Warrants released Friday alleged that Harris told family how to cash in on life insurance policies on the boy shortly after his death.

At Thursday's hearing, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore argued that the evidence involving Harris' Internet and texting activities had no bearing on his client's intent and was being used simply to publicly shame him.

The child's car seat may also become a key element in the case against Harris, a Home Depot IT specialist, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the paper, Cobb County Police Det. Phil Stoddard testified Thursday Cooper was "several inches" too big for the rear-facing child seat in which he died.

Stoddard testified that Harris and his wife had purchased a new, forward-facing car seat for their son, but switched back to the boy's old seat several weeks before his death, reports the paper.

"Harris knew the specific make and model of the seat and what the weight limit was for the child to be seated in it," warrants state, according to the paper. "When the seat was inspected the straps for the seat were set on the lowest level for a small child."