Mom in Georgia child's hot-car death hires attorney

Leanna, Cooper and Ross Harris

Credit: 11Alive

Leanna, Cooper and Ross Harris

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by REBECCA LINDSTROM & KEVIN ROWSON / WXIA

WXIA

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 8:22 AM

ATLANTA — The mother of the 22-month boy who died after being left in his father's hot car for hours, has hired an attorney and has left the state.

Cobb County Police have not charged Leanna Harris, or even named her as a suspect in her son's death, but she has retained Lawrence Zimmerman to represent her in the case.

Justin Ross Harris, 33, is charged with felony murder and second-degree child cruelty in the death of his son, Cooper. He claims he forgot to drop his son off at day care before heading to work on June 18, three days after Father's Day. Cooper spent nearly seven hours in his dad's SUV as temperatures rose to 88 degrees, according to warrants.

As her husband awaits trial in Cooper's death, Leanna Harris and her mother went to their home in Alabama on Thursday.

Zimmerman commented several times on the case as a legal analyst for WXIA-TV in Atlanta. Now that he represents Harris, he says commenting on the case outside of his new duties, would be a conflict of interest.

But the day after Ross Harris was charged with murder, Zimmerman questioned the charges against him.

"This man is behind bars and they're saying it's willful... It sounds like it may be cruelty in the second degree possibly if at all," said Zimmerman.

During a probable cause hearing, he downplayed the importance of testimony regarding Ross Harris' "double life." An investigator with Cobb County Police testified Harris had been sexting at work with six different women while his son was outside in the car dying. The investigator also said Harris had visited several Internet sites related to living a child-free life and how to survive prison.

"We don't know if he had any conversations with anybody. If he was in a chat room saying 'I want to get rid of my wife, I want to get rid of my child,'" said Zimmerman.

Now, Zimmerman can make that case with the district attorney on behalf of her and her husband.

In other developments:

• Home Depot spokeswoman Catherine Woodling confirmed Thursday that Justin Ross Harris no longer works for the company but wouldn't say when he was terminated. She said he'd been on leave without pay since his arrest.

• The online payment site PayPal says it will give refunds to people who donated to a fundraising campaign for a Georgia family whose toddler died in a hot car. PayPal spokeswoman Adriana Higuera said the company will soon be issuing refunds to customers who used PayPal to donate to the campaign at YouCaring.com, where a total of more than $22,000 was given.

• Toxicology results revealed that Cooper had no medications and no sedation agents given to him on the day of his death.

• A close childhood friend of Harris is blasting him on social media. Ben McRea has tweeted several messages about the man he has known for nearly 20 years. McRea, who was a groomsman in Harris' wedding, wrote, "Thank you God Ross and Leanna didn't have any more kids. I wish I never helped them meet." He also wrote, "Am ashamed I ever knew Ross Harris it makes me vomit to see his face now. I loved you like family man how did you get so sick."

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