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Police seek medical records in hot car death


ATLANTA (AP) -- Court records released Monday show police want to learn about the health of a toddler in the months before he died of heat exposure in his father's car near Atlanta.

Search warrants and affidavits released Monday show investigators are seeking medical records for 22-month-old Cooper Harris, as well as information about any medical conditions he may have had and his growth and development.

The child's father, 33-year-old Justin Ross Harris, faces murder and child cruelty charges in the June 18 death. Harris has said he left the boy in the SUV for about seven hours after forgetting to drop him off at day care.

Jessica Gabel, an associate professor of law at Georgia State University, said police often seek medical records to check for past signs of abuse in children. Harris' attorneys have sought to portray him as a doting, loving father, and he has not been accused of abuse in the past.

Medical records might include past evidence of bruises or marks that were visible on a child, but they also allow police to search for signs of abuse or neglect that aren't as obvious, she said.

"What you're really probing for on a deeper level, especially with children, are latent defects or health concerns - malabsorption or malnutrition, for example," she said.

Medical records also allow police to learn whether a child met certain benchmarks for height and weight, for instance, Gabel said.

Cobb County police detectives also asked Harris about Cooper's development shortly after the death.

"According to Harris, Cooper was developing fine," police wrote in a search warrant affidavit. "He was walking, talking and appeared to be a normal child for his age."

Police also sought the father's medical records. Justin Harris' lawyer, Maddox Kilgore, said at a Thursday court hearing that his client has significant hearing loss in one ear.

Gabel said police may be trying to verify that claim about his hearing. They might also be casting a wider net, looking to find out whether he sought any type of psychological treatment.

"Depending on what comes out of the health records, the defense could use it to their advantage," Gabel said. "If the child was healthy and meeting milestones, that goes to the benefit of the defense."

At Thursday's court hearing, Cobb County police Det. Phil Stoddard testified that Justin Harris was using a computer to exchange nude photos with women the day his son died.

The detective testified that the father had also viewed some websites that advocated against having children and others that detailed how people die in hot cars.

Other documents released Monday involve police efforts to search Harris' iPhone5; computer hard drives; thumb drives; and other computer storage devices.

Police said they're searching the devices for information about various topics, including the Harris family's finances, life insurance policies, Internet searches and emails. Investigators have said Harris had two life insurance policies for Cooper, one for $2,000 and one for $25,000.

Kilgore's law partner, Carlos Rodriguez, said Monday the firm is not making any public statements about the case.

Harris is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and moved to Georgia in 2012 to work for Home Depot.

Join the discussion

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junehbc July 07 2014 at 4:16 PM

stick him in a locked car in the middle of the Arizona desert

Flag Reply +31 rate up
3 replies
Jimmy July 07 2014 at 5:17 PM

Poor little boy you know he suffered immensely! Wondering why NOBODY would help him!! I wanna cry, Even a DOG shouldn't die like this!

Flag Reply +28 rate up
4 replies
cgssnavickas July 07 2014 at 4:36 PM

My sister has 80 % hearing loss in one ear, yet she'd be able to hear any of her kids crying.

Flag Reply +25 rate up
3 replies
jktkw July 07 2014 at 5:16 PM

reminds me of the Anthony case..

Flag Reply +22 rate up
5 replies
kmcewan007 July 07 2014 at 4:11 PM

he did it in purpose you have to be the biggest moran on the planet to leave a kid in a hot car and his computer will screw him for sure

Flag Reply +21 rate up
6 replies
aryc777 July 07 2014 at 4:49 PM

this guy makes me sick..and the attorneys representing a psycho like that are just as bad

Flag Reply +19 rate up
11 replies
Carol July 07 2014 at 5:01 PM

It's going to be very interesting watching this one play out. I hope this case has the TV cameras in the court room. Besides the facts that we have so far, there also seems to be something really distasteful about this guy ...

Flag Reply +15 rate up
3 replies
coachmens July 07 2014 at 5:49 PM

He is a no good scum bag. They should to do him what he did to that child. If he did't want his child why not give the child to a family that would love that beautiful innocent child.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
1 reply
sknkodiak coachmens July 07 2014 at 8:14 PM

In all likelihood his wife would have objected to giving the child away

Flag Reply 0 rate up
barblam1 July 07 2014 at 5:33 PM

Where is the mother???

Flag Reply +11 rate up
8 replies
beaniepenie July 07 2014 at 5:27 PM

Get rid of him and find out what his wife knows...cause they both are involved!!!! Give them the chair!!!

Flag Reply +11 rate up
3 replies
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