Police seek medical records in hot car death

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Police seek medical records in hot car death
Leanna Harris, right, wife of Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, arrives for her husband's bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris who police say intentionally killed his toddler son by leaving the boy inside a hot SUV was exchanging nude photos with women the day his son died and had looked at websites that advocated against having children, a detective testified Thursday. At that same hearing, a judge refused to grant bond for Harris, meaning he will remain in jail. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Leanna Harris, wife of Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, looks on during her husband's bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris who police say intentionally killed his toddler son by leaving the boy inside a hot SUV was exchanging nude photos with women the day his son died and had looked at websites that advocated against having children, a detective testified Thursday. At that same hearing, a judge refused to grant bond for Harris, meaning he will remain in jail. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, wipes his eye as he sits during his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Cobb County police investigate an SUV where a toddler died Wednesday, June 18, 2014, near Marietta, Ga., when the father forgot to drop his child off at day care and went to work. Justin Ross Harris, 33, was being held without bond on a felony murder charge Thursday, police in suburban Atlanta said. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ben Gray)
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, sits for his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
A Cobb County Sheriff's deputy talks to Justin Ross Harris, right, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, as he appears for his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, sits for his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
A tear rolls down the cheek of Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, as he sits during his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Justin Ross Harris, right, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, arrives for his bond hearing at Cobb County Magistrate Court Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris is currently being held without bond on a child cruelty charge and a murder charge. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Justin Ross Harris, second from left, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, arrives for his bond hearing at Cobb County Magistrate Court Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris is currently being held without bond on a child cruelty charge and a murder charge. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Justin Ross Harris, center, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, arrives for his bond hearing at Cobb County Magistrate Court Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris is currently being held without bond on a child cruelty charge and a murder charge. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
In this undated photo released by the Cobb County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department, Justin Ross Harris poses for a photo. Harris, 33, accused of leaving his 22-month-old son in an SUV on a hot day returned at lunchtime to put something in the vehicle, where the child was strapped into a seat in the back, according to an arrest warrant filed Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Cobb County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department)
Cobb County police investigate an SUV where a toddler died Wednesday, June 18, 2014, near Marietta, Ga., when the father forgot to drop his child off at day care and went to work. Justin Ross Harris, 33, was being held without bond on a felony murder charge Thursday, police in suburban Atlanta said. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ben Gray)
In this image taken from closed-circuit television, Justin Ross Harris, left, appears with his attorney, Maddox Kilgore, before Cobb Magistrate Judge John Strauss on Thursday evening, June 19, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris is charged with felony murder and first-degree cruelty to children in the death of his 22-month-old son, who was left in a hot SUV for hours. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ben Gray)
Leanna Harris, right, wife of Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, arrives for her husband's bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris who police say intentionally killed his toddler son by leaving the boy inside a hot SUV was exchanging nude photos with women the day his son died and had looked at websites that advocated against having children, a detective testified Thursday. At that same hearing, a judge refused to grant bond for Harris, meaning he will remain in jail. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, wipes his eye as he sits during his bond hearing in Cobb County Magistrate Court, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Harris who police say intentionally killed his toddler son by leaving the boy inside a hot SUV was exchanging nude photos with women the day his son died and had looked at websites that advocated against having children, a detective testified Thursday. At that same hearing, a judge refused to grant bond for Harris, meaning he will remain in jail. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 17: Stock photographs representing children who have died after being left unattended in vehicles are on display during a news conference to launch the 'Look Before You Lock' campaign at the Campagna Center at George Washington Head Start August 17, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia. 23 children in the United States have already died from hyperthermia this year after being left in hot cars. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - AUGUST 17: Alexandria Fire and EMS officials participate in a demonstration of the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles during a news conference to launch the 'Look Before You Lock' campaign at the Campagna Center at George Washington Head Start August 17, 2012 in Alexandria, Virginia. 23 children in the United States have already died from hyperthermia this year after being left in hot cars. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Cobb County Magistrate Court Judge Frank R. Cox listens to testimony during the bond hearing for Justin Ross Harris, the father of a toddler who died after police say he was left in a hot car for about seven hours, Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marietta Daily Journal, Kelly J. Huff, Pool)
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By JEFF MARTIN

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.

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