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Was this little boy's death a horrible mistake? Or something more sinister?

22-month-old Cooper.

Warning: This post contains some distressing content and might be upsetting for some readers. 

Update:

The mother of 22-month-old boy Cooper Harris has told police  she searched the internet for information on how child deaths in cars occur.

Leanna Harris told police that in the months prior to her son’s death she searched for what temperature cars had to be for a death to occur.

The admission comes after Harris’ husband Justin Ross Harris suggested he did the same thing.

And the reason they did it? They were fearful they would make the fatal mistake one day.

Mamamia previously reported:

In a new twist, police have implied there may be more to the story than Justin Ross Harris simply forgetting his son, 22-month-old Cooper, was in the car.

A police warrant now reveals that Harris took his son to breakfast at the Vinings Chick-fil-A before driving to work, and that he returned to the car at lunch time before leaving the child again.

Sources have also told WAGA-TV that at some point before the boy’s death Harris used his work computer to search for details on how long it took an animal to die in overheated cars, News.com.au reports.

“Much has changed about the circumstances leading up to the death of this 22-month-old since it was first reported,” Cobb County Police Sergeant Dana Pierce told CNN.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 34 years. What I know about this case shocks my conscience as a police officer, a father and a grandfather.”

“I cannot confirm that the child, as originally reported, was in the car at 9am,” Pierce cryptically added.

Witness Edward Cockerham told Mail Online: “I was interviewed by the police last night and I told them I thought the guy was acting, he was really overreacting to the situation.

“It seemed like acting to me. When he pulled in and people started asking him what had happened, he said that the baby had just started choking. But the baby didn’t look like it had been choking, it looked like it had been sweating, like it had been in a swimming pool, his hair was all wet,” Cockerham, 49, told Mail Online.

Meanwhile, more than 11,100 people have signed a online Change.org petition calling for Harris to be set free.The petition claims that Harris ‘loved his son immensely’ and the fatal incident was just a ‘horrible accident.

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Previously, Mamamia reported:

33-year-old father Justin Ross Harris says he was driving home from work one night when he looked in the rear vision mirror and realised something truly terrible.

Something that would change his life.

He had left his 22-month-old son Cooper alone in the back seat that morning, on a day when temperatures reached 33 degrees Celsius.

Apparently, instead of dropping Cooper at childcare as he was supposed to, Harris had gone into auto-pilot mode and driven straight to work that morning.

He told authorities he carried out his day as a web developer in the US state of Georgia as usual. And it wasn’t until he got into the car and headed towards the daycare centre to pick Cooper up that Harris realised the mistake he’d made.

Harris reportedly pulled his mini-SUV into a public car park.

Witnesses claim he was hysterical, screaming out, “What have I done? What have I done?”  They say he was physically restrained after multiple attempts to resuscitate his son failed.

Harris, who has been charged with felony murder.

“He laid his son on the ground and started doing CPR, trying to resuscitate him. Apparently, the child wasn’t responding,” one witness told a US news outlet.

If Harris’ version of events are true and he switched into auto-pilot mode, this devastating story is eerily familiar. In October last year, a Perth dad drove to a childcare centre in Helena Valley to collect his 11-month-old son. However, upon arrival he was informed he never dropped his child off.

The young child was soon in the back of his dad’s Honda Civic — no longer breathing.

The question many parents are now asking is: how? How does a parent forget their child? Can they?

It’s a question that was answered in the 2009 Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Post article, Fatal Distraction.

The article explored the phenomenon of doting, dedicated, good parents, forgetting that their children are in the back seat and leaving them inside the car. It happens to an average of 38 kids every year in the US:

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The wealthy do it, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Harris has faced court, saying leaving his son in the car was a mistake. He says that one minute he was driving home for the night. The next he was a grieving father, whose much-loved son was dead.

But despite this, authorities have charged him with felony murder.

Whether Fatal Distraction was behind Connor’s death or not, they believe inflicting a young child to 60 degree heat for several hours was tantamount to child abuse.

“When a suspect is charged with a felony — such as cruelty to children in the first degree — which results in the loss of life, a murder charge is appropriate,” District Attorney Vic Reynolds said.

It’s a charge that’s left a lot of the US public outraged, with many saying that Harris’ mistake was punishment enough. As the Washington Post article suggested, Fatal Distraction Syndrome can effect people from all areas of the world and from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg

Mamamia previously spoke to psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg about how one’s chances of falling prey to Fatal Distraction could be minimised.

“As someone who has had two boys, I really do think that this could happen to any of us,” he said.

“Research suggests that it doesn’t really happen that often,” he said. “But the bad news is that it’s incredibly difficult to predict when it is going to happen.

“It happens out of the blue.

“Just about the only way in which you could 100 per cent guarantee that his could never happen to you, is to be anal and have a list.”

Other suggestions include placing an item you require during the day, like a handbag or phone, in the backseat. That way, the backseat is more likely to be looked at before the car is locked for the day.

Ultimately though, in these scenarios there are no winners. The true cause of Connor’s death is still being investigated. But, if the Fatal Distraction phenomena was indeed at play, we can only hope raising awareness of  it and its ability to overcome just about anyone may just help such incidence rates slowly decrease.

Our thoughts are with the Harris family. 

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