Justin Ross Harris killed his baby son in a hot car—and now, the child's mother, his ex-wife Leanna Taylor, has told 20/20 in her first interview since the shocking death that it was an accident.
Harris, 36, was convicted of murder in November for leaving little Cooper, 22 months, inside a hot SUV outside his workplace in Atlanta. The father was sentenced to life in prison after the jury heard prosecutors contend that he wanted to eliminate his son to be free to pursue other sexual relationships outside his marriage.
But his former wife Taylor, finally breaking her 2 ½ year media silence on the case that stunned America, insisted Harris isn't to blame for the toddler's death.
"It never crossed my mind that Ross had done it on purpose," she said on ABC's Friday 20/20 broadcast. "Never. It was an accident."
As Radar readers know, District Attorney Chuck Boring called Harris' SUV the "murder weapon" in the case, saying he used it to kill his small child when he left him in there for the entire day on June 18, 2014.
Cooper was sitting in his rear facing car seat just inches from his father's driver's seat. According to experts, the temperature reached approximately 120 degrees in the hot SUV.
Investigators showed that Harris, who was supposed to drop his son off at day care that morning, instead drove to work and left him in the car all day. And video from the parking lot showed that the web developer even ran an errand and put some light bulbs in the car during his work day, still not removing his son from the SUV.
Taylor said she first learned something was amiss when she went to pick up Cooper from day care and the teacher told her the boy wasn't there.
"And I thought she was joking, and I was like, 'No really, where's Cooper?'" Taylor told the TV newsmagazine. "And she just looked me dead in the face and got my attention. She was like, 'He's not here.' I didn't know what to think."
Strangely, Taylor admitted that she said out loud that her husband must have left him in the car.
"Nothing else that was in my mind was going to made sense," she told 20/20. "The next place my brain went was, 'Well, maybe Ross left him at home, like, maybe he just forgot to take him to daycare.' ... he could be a forgetful person."
But she soon learned the terrible news about what Harris had done.
And damning evidence in court showed that Harris had watched a video online about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars just days before Cooper died.
Despite the evidence at his trial, ex-wife Taylor described him to ABC as "a very engaged, involved father," and added about her own testimony, "I have to tell the truth. And I can't sit up there and say he was a bad father. I can't sit there and say he was annoyed by having a child, because that's not what I saw."
Taylor defended Harris even though other women testified that he had cheated on her with them. Prosecutors exposed sexually explicit text messages and photos Harris had exchanged with his girlfriends, one of whom was a prostitute.
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