10 years ago, Justin Ross Harris left his baby son in a hot car. There's so much more to the story.

On June 18, 2014, it was a very warm summer's day in Georgia; well over 30 degrees. 

American father Justin 'Ross' Harris was supposed to drop his 22-month-old son Cooper off at day care. 

Instead, Harris drove to his place of work — a Home Depot corporate office — and parked his vehicle, leaving Cooper buckled in his rear-facing car seat in the back of the SUV.

Seven hours later, Harris discovered Cooper deceased in the car. Harris has always said it was a terrible accident. He didn't mean to leave his child in the backseat, he completely forgot. 

A jury believed otherwise, and convicted Harris of murder in the first degree. 

Cooper's mother, Leanna Taylor, doesn't want anything to do with Harris. She feels much anger towards him. But she never thought Harris should spend the rest of his life behind bars. 

That's because she has never thought he was guilty of malice or murder.

Watch: The moment the guilty verdict was read out in court for Justin Ross Harris. Post continues below.

Video via WSB-TV.

Police were suspicious of Justin Ross Harris from the get-go.

The police estimated that Cooper likely died around noon, two and a half hours after Harris had left him in the car.

Although there was very minimal tangible evidence that Harris had intended to murder his son, prosecutors relied on something else to convince a jury of Harris' guilt.


That was his extramarital sexual affairs, and his contact with a person under the age of consent. On the day that Cooper died in the car, Harris reportedly exchanged sexual text messages with six different females. One of the females he allegedly sexted was 16 years old.  

Witness testimony didn't help Harris' case either.

A police officer who attended the scene testified that Harris was "acting hysterical and extremely upset", with emphasis on acting. He believed that Harris was feigning grief.

There were additional testimonials from people who had interacted with Harris sexually as well, including five women and one minor.

Also during the trial, a psychology professor and memory and attention expert argued that it was "absolutely possible" that Harris had left his son in the car as a result of a memory lapse. 

In court, Cooper's mother Leanna Taylor testified as part of Harris' defence. She acknowledged that her ex-husband likely had a pornography problem, and that she was devastated by his infidelity. Soon after Harris' arrest, Taylor filed for divorce from her husband, upon discovering his affairs. 

She did however vouch for Harris, saying she felt there was no way that he would have intentionally hurt their child.

A text message though proved fatal for Harris' defence. He had sent the text minutes before leaving Cooper in the car: "I love my son and all, but we both need escapes."


A guilty verdict.

The prosecution successfully argued that Harris had left Cooper in the car in a bid to pursue his sexual affairs. 

A jury found Harris guilty of all counts on November 14, 2016, including malice murder, felony murder, cruelty to children, sexual exploitation of children, and dissemination of harmful materials to minors.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, plus 32 years.

When the verdict was delivered in court, Harris was emotionless but let out a long sigh as the guilty finding on each of his charges were read out.


A mother's intuition.

Cooper's mother, Leanna Taylor, spoke to media for the first time in 2017 about the ordeal.

She said that while she holds much resentment towards her ex-husband, she doesn't believe he murdered their baby Cooper. Rather it was a terrible, but culpable, accident.

Speaking to ABC News, Taylor said: "There was no evidence in our relationship that suggested he would harm anyone, let alone his own son. It never crossed my mind that Ross had done it on purpose. It was an accident."

Since that day of finding out her son was dead, Taylor says she has "gone through all the emotions".

Scrutiny was on Taylor for much of the trial and subsequent press coverage. A CCTV recording of Taylor and Harris seeing each other in a police interrogation room for the first time post their son's death was released to the public. In the video, Taylor embraces Harris in a big hug, later saying she felt empathy for her then-husband for the guilt and devastation on his shoulders. 

In the video though, she was recorded as saying to him: "Did you say too much?"

"I knew my husband. I knew his personality. Logically, Ross doesn't shut up. So the only thing I could think of logically was, 'What did you say to make them think you did this on purpose?'" explained Taylor.

Leanna Taylor and Justin Ross Harris with son Cooper prior to his death. Image: Facebook.


A shock appeal.

In 2023, Harris' life sentence was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court.

The judges ruled that the submissions by prosecutors about Harris' extramarital relationships had an unfair prejudicial impact on the jury. They determined it was irrelevant to the case of Cooper's death.

The court overturned the convictions on murder and cruelty. They did however uphold the convictions related to the dissemination of harmful materials to minors and the sexual exploitation of children. These were in relation to Harris' contact with the minor whom he was sexting.

In response to the new verdict, Harris' attorney said: "Charging a grieving parent for an unintentional memory failure does nothing to prevent the tragedy from happening to another. In fact, child fatalities from hot cars increased after Ross' 2016 trial, the most widely reported hot car death case in history."


Justin Ross Harris' new life.

This week, Harris was freed from Macon State Prison, according to online records from the Georgia Department of Corrections. He happened to be released on Sunday June 16 — Father's Day in the US.

He had been serving a 10-year sentence for sex crimes against a child, the records state. 

Following his release, Harris was transferred to the Cobb County Jail, where he could serve the last two years of his sentence reportedly. He could be released earlier with good behaviour and time served.

Through his attorney, Harris has said he's thankful that the appeal and new verdict "may begin to restore Cooper's legacy as a child much loved by his parents".

"Ross has always accepted the moral responsibility for Cooper's death. But after all these years of investigation and review, this dismissal of charges confirms that Cooper's death was unintentional and therefore not a crime," the attorney said to media. 

A little boy's life lost.

Regardless of the result of Harris' convictions, Taylor said it's been overwhelming to have spent so many years without her son, not being able to watch him grow.

"Cooper was the sweetest little boy. He had so much life. He was everything to me. He loved to smile. He loved playing. He loved bananas. He was just amazing. I miss him so much," she said.

As Taylor claimed to CNN, Harris was "a loving and proud father" who simultaneously was "a terrible husband".

Feature Image: Facebook.