Autopsy: Child left in hot car died of hyperthermia

Justin Ross Harris

Authorities have filed a new warrant against the father accused of leaving his child in a hot car while he was at work, raising questions about whether the act may have been intentional.

Justin Ross Harris is charged with felony murder and second-degree cruelty to children.

The Cobb County Medical Examiner's Office completed the autopsy June 19 and concluded the cause of 22-month-old Cooper's death was hyperthermia, a condition in which the temperature of the body spikes due to the heat, and the investigative information suggests the manner of death is homicide.

The medical examiner is waiting for toxicology test results before making an official ruling as to the cause and manner of death.

Harris, 34, was supposed to drop Cooper off at daycare, but said he forgot. He told police he drove to work at Home Depot around 9 a.m. Wednesday and left the toddler in the car.

It wasn't until Harris left work and started driving home that he said he looked in the backseat and saw the child still strapped in the car seat and unresponsive.

The new warrant states Harris placed Cooper into his car seat after eating at Chick-fil-A on Cumberland Parkway. The car seat was centered on the rear seat of his car.

Police said Harris then drove to work at Home Depot and left his son strapped into the vehicle while he entered work.

During lunch the warrant states Harris entered his vehicle through the driver's side door to place an object into the vehicle. He then closed the door and left the car, re-entering his place of business.

After work Harris left work and pulled over at a shopping center on Akers Mill Road asking for assistance with his child.

It was determined Cooper died after being left in the car for the day.

"The chain of events that occurred in this case does not point toward simple negligence and evidence will be presented to support this allegation," said Cobb County Police Chief John R. Houser in a statement. You can read the entire statement here.

CBS46 was told there are additional warrants in this case that could shed more light on what happened. Those documents have not yet been filed.

Harris remains in jail without bond. He will be back in court on July 3.

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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