COBB COUNTY, Ga. – Support appears to be fading for the father charged with murder after leaving his 22-month-old son in a hot car.
Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Cobb County, Ga., is charged with murder and second-degree cruelty to a child in the death of his son, Cooper. Harris told police that he forgot to drop his son off at daycare on June 18, leaving the boy in the SUV for more than seven hours as outside temperatures climbed to about 88 degrees.
Harris initially garnered an enormous amount of online support after police filed murder charges against him. More than 11,000 supporters signed an online petition urging Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds to drop the charges. Supporters also donated more than $22,000 for burial expenses and legal bills.
However, police issued a new arrest warrant on Wednesday that offered more details into the events surrounding the boy's death. In it, police said that Harris and his son had breakfast at a Chick-fil-A on Cumberland Boulevard on the morning of the incident. The warrant states Harris placed his son into rear-facing car seat a little after 9 a.m.
Harris should have turned at the intersection of Paces Ferry Road and Cumberland Parkway to head to Cooper's daycare. Instead, he went straight through the intersection and proceeded to work.
The drive from the Chick-fil-A to Harris' office took less than three minutes when WXIA drove the route on Wednesday. Harris told police that was enough time for him to forget his son was in the backseat.
Cooper Harris's daycare is located at the Home Depot Corporate Headquarters off Paces Ferry Road. His father works at the Home Depot "Treehouse Office" located about a mile away on Cumberland Parkway.
The warrant also states that Harris returned to his car around lunch time, reaching in through the driver's side door and placing something inside.
At 4:16 that afternoon Harris left work for the day and traveled north on Cumberland Parkway toward the Akers Mill shopping center, instead of south toward his son's daycare. Police said he pulled over into the shopping center when he realized his son was incapacitated.
Critics of the department's handling of the case initially said police were too quick to charge Harris with murder and too slow to explain the evidence they had against the Web developer.
After the new information was released, organizers of the online petition shut it down. A message posted on Thursday read:
"Hello, I think that based on the recent developments this petition is no longer relevant. I still pray that this was truly an accident. If that is the case, the DA now knows that the community does not want Justin prosecuted on murder charges."
A YouCaring fund-raising site appears to still be active.
Cooper Harris' mother, Leanna Harris, has managed to avoid the intense media spotlight focused on her husband. Police say both Justin Harris and his wife remain under intense scrutiny, but only the father is charged.
The police department stated publicly for the first time on Wednesday that they do not believe Cooper's death was an accident. Autopsy results showed the boy, Cooper Harris, died of hyperthermia, and that the investigation "suggests the manner of death is homicide," the Cobb County Police Department said.
People who witnessed Justin Harris when he discovered his son's body at the shopping center had differing opinions on his guilt. Police had to restrain Harris because he appeared to be distraught and took him into custody for questioning at that time.
Cooper will be buried on Saturday in Alabama.
(Contributing: USA TODAY)