Georgia Father Faces Murder Charges After Son Dies in the Summer Heat in a Hot Car
On Thursday, June 19th, a Georgia father was charged with murder and denied bond after he left his son in the summer heat in a hot car and the child died.
Justin Ross Harris, 34, a resident of Marietta, went to work around 9 AM with his 22-mont-old son in the backseat of the car. Harris left his son in the car for the duration of his workday in the summer heat, forgetting to drop the child off at daycare. As he drove home around 4 PM, he noticed that his son was in the car seat and unresponsive.
Harris pulled off the road into a shopping center parking lot, and attempted to resuscitate the child. However, he was unable to revive his son, and EMTs pronounced the child dead at the scene. Harris was booked into Cobb County Jail on charges of murder, and cruelty to children.
“Said accused did leave a 22-month-old juvenile male unattended and strapped into a child car seat in a parked vehicle for approximately seven hours during daytime hours after which the child was found deceased,” the warrant states.
At his bond hearing, Harris was silent and showed no outward emotions, although witnesses at the scene of his son’s death say that Harris was distraught. Magistrate Judge John John Strauss denied Harris bond because he was charged with murder, which in Georgia means he cannot be released.
Harris’s son’s death is the second in two days involving a child left in a hot car in the summer heat. Earlier in the week, a 9-month-old girl was left in a car in Florida and died. The death of the Harris child is, according to KidsAndCars.org, the 14th so far in the United States this year. Last year, 43 children died of heatstroke in cars.
“This is a warning. In only minutes, the inside of your car can become a death trap for a child,” Gov. Nathan Deal said one of the public-service announcements. “You can be a hero. You can prevent a tragedy.”
Summer Heat Precautions
The summer heat in the South can reach dangerous temperatures, as children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to heatstroke deaths.
This is a tragedy, and the reality is that this can happen to anyone. We are all human. Unfortunately, there are numerous reports from loving, involved, respected parents and community leaders who can attest to how an ordinary day can end in tragedy. While we may want to point fingers and claim that it cannot happen to us, you should realize that it can happen to anyone.
A slight change to your routine, an unexpected or unanticipated distraction, a baby sleeping peacefully in a rear facing car seat, or mental and physical exhaustion can lead you to leave your child unattended in a car.
We want to warn all parents and caregivers to take extra precautions to prevent leaving a child in the summer heat in a car.
The following safety tips from KidsAndCars.org may save a loved one:
- Place an important item like a cell phone, purse, briefcase, or employee id on the floor board in the backseat so that you have to retrieve it before getting out.
- Make it a habit to open the back door of your vehicle every time you reach your destination to make sure that no child has been left behind.
- Keep a large stuffed animal or object in the child’s car seat when it is not occupied. When the child is in the car seat, place the stuffed animal in the front seat so that you have a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
- Ask your child’s caregiver or day care center to call if your child does not show up.
- Be active and stay aware in your community: if you see a child alone in a car, GET INVOLVED. If a child in a car appears hot or sick, get them out as quickly as possible. Call 911 immediately.
The Strom Law Firm Encourages Summer Heat Safety and Awareness
The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have been based in Columbia, SC for 16 years, and are also licensed to practice in Georgia and New York. We offer free, confidential consultations even if it is a criminal trial, or personal injury lawsuit, to discuss the facts of your case, so do not hesitate to contact us for help. 803.252.4800.