Cooper Harris Death: Mother’s Odd Behavior Raises Eyebrows, As Does Questionable Car Seat Decision; Plus 3 Other New Developments

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Jul. 8 2014, Published 10:35 a.m. ET

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We’ve got the latest developments in the tragic death of Cooper Harris, the 22-month-old tot who died June 18 after spending nearly seven hours in a sweltering SUV, leading authorities to charge his father Ross with felony murder and second-degree child cruelty in the death.

1. Search Warrants

On Monday, investigators released search warrants connected to the case illustrating the tasks they’ve undertaken in the early goings of the investigation. Police said they scoured the couple’s Marietta home for materials linked to the family’s finances; and inspected the house’s light bulbs, as Ross had bought new ones at Home Depot the day of Cooper’s death. Investigators also issued implemented a search warrant at Kaiser Permanente Medical Records, where they collected information regarding both father and son.

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2. Car Seat Switch

In a decision that’s puzzling authorities, Ross Harris and wife Leanna Harris had moved the boy back into a rear-facing car seat that was too small after acquiring a new front-facing one, Cobb County Police Det. Phil Stoddard said. The relevance to the investigation is that Harris would not have been able to see his son (from the driver’s seat) in the older model. According to a warrant in the case, officials said that “Harris knew the specific make and model of the seat and what the weight limit was for the child to be seated in it,” and “when the seat was inspected the straps, for the seat were set on the lowest level for a small child.”

3. Mother’s Bizarre Behavior

Much of the focus in the case has centered around the boy’s mother, Leanna. While authorities have not charged her in the case, a string of unusual responses and actions have spurred law enforcement and media to take a closer look at the 30-year-old. Police said that Leanna broke the news of her son’s death to relatives in a deadpan manner, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, triggering her mother to ask her, "Why aren't you crying? Why aren't you reacting?" Esther Panitch, an Atlanta defense attorney not working on the case, told the paper that "There isn't enough evidence to make her a co-conspirator … yet." Panitch said that while “knowledge of a crime isn't prosecutable,” aiding “a cover-up is.”

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4. Google Records

Investigators, citing computer forensics, said that both Ross and Leanna conducted searches about children dying in hot cars days BEFORE Cooper’s death. Both of the parents told authorities that they only made the inquiries so they would be prepared to prevent such a horrific thing from happening to their child, as it was a fear they intensely harbored. Police have recovered a cache of electronic devices — including two hard drives and a memory card — in hopes of finding clues to unspool the mysterious death.

5. Follow The Money?

While incarcerated, Ross Harris informed his relatives about the ways and means to cull life insurance payments on Cooper’s death, as the father had taken out two policies on the child totaling $27,000, Stoddard said.



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