Justin Ross Harris, the Georgia dad whose 22-month-old son died after being left in a hot car for seven hours, was charged with murder on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
A grand jury indicted him on eight charges including malice murder, felony murder, and cruelty to children. The malice murder charge alleges that Harris premeditated his child's killing, CNN reported. Harris, 33, had pleaded not guilty to charges. He has been in jail since he was arrested on the day his son died in June.
According to the indictment, the grand jury found that Harris, "did unlawfully, and with malice aforethought, cause the death of Cooper Harris, a human being, by placing said Cooper Harris into a child car seat and leaving him alone in a hot motor vehicle."
The grand jury also said that Harris "maliciously caused" his child "cruel and excessive physical pain" by leaving him in a hot car.
Harris had told police that he had forgotten to drop his son Cooper off at daycare and drove straight to work. The child died of overheating after he was left strapped in the car for seven hours with temperatures reaching the high 80s. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Harris was also charged on other counts not directly related to Cooper's death: criminal attempt to commit a felony (sexual exploitation of a minor) and two counts of dissemination of harmful material to minors.
During a July hearing, Cobb County Police Detective Phill Stoddard testified that Harris texted up to six different women, including a 16-year-old, pictures of his genitals while his son died in his car. According to the indictment, Harris requested the minor to provide him with a photograph "involving the lewd exhibition of her genital and pubic area."
Harris also visited websites advocating a child-free lifestyle and had researched how long it takes animals to die in hot cars, and "how to survive in prison."
The prosecution argued that Harris intentionally killed his child, while his lawyer said that the evidence was insufficient and called the toddler's death "a tragic accident."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at email@example.com.
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