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Posted: June 29, 2014

Dad of toddler who died in hot SUV to make crucial court hearing

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Photos: Toddler dies after being left in SUV all day
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)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV

COBB COUNTY, Ga. —

A Georgia father accused of killing his toddler son by leaving him in a hot SUV is scheduled to make a crucial court appearance Thursday afternoon.

Cooper Harris, 22 months old, died in June after spending hours in the SUV.

According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, prosecutors will talk about why Justin Ross Harris should face a trial for murder, while defense attorneys try to convince a judge to release him on bond at Thursday’s probable cause hearing.

The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Cobb County Courthouse.

— Please return to ajc.com and wsbtv.com for updates. 

Below is the original story by Alexis Stevens of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

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Original story: The mother of the 22-month-old who died after being left inside an SUV told police she also researched children dying in hot vehicles, according to new court documents released Sunday morning.

“Leanna Harris, the child’s mother, was also questioned regarding the incident, and made similar statements regarding researching in car deaths and how it occurs,” search warrant affidavits obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution state.

The timing of those online searches and investigators’ findings have not been released. But within about five hours of the toddler’s death on June 18, his father, Justin Ross Harris, was arrested, and charged with murder and cruelty to children.

>> RELATED: Police: Father who left child in hot car charged with murder

Leanna Harris has not been identified as a suspect in the death of her son, Cooper Harris. But she was also questioned in the hours following the boy’s death after he was left in his car seat inside a Hyundai Tucson for at least seven hours while his father went to work. On Saturday, Leanna Harris spoke at her son’s funeral.

“Ross was and is a wonderful father,” Leanna Harris said to the applause of about 250 mourners, The AJC reported.

Cooper’s death and his father’s subsequent arrest quickly made national headlines, sparked by a sharply divided debate over whether the felony charges were appropriate. Support for Ross Harris, including an online petition to the Cobb County district attorney, has shifted in recent days as new facts in the case have been reported. The online petition was halted Wednesday after more than 11,000 people had signed in support of charges being dropped in the case.

The boy’s father told police he had searched online for information regarding temperatures needed for children to die inside vehicles because he was fearful it could happen, according to search warrant affidavits released Saturday.

>> RELATED: 'I’ve killed our child,' dad screams over tiny body

Additional affidavits released Sunday state that Leanna Harris made similar statements. Police seized several electronics from the SUV and the couple’s Marietta-area condo, including an iPhone, iPad, a desktop computer, two laptops and a Google Chromecast digital media player, the warrants state.

The findings and evidence cited to arrest the boy’s father were not released and may not be until a possible trial. By law, after applying for search warrants, investigators have 10 days to conduct the searches and return the application documents to Magistrate Court.

On the morning of June 18, Ross Harris and Cooper had breakfast at a Vinings Chick-fil-A before the father strapped his son into a rear-facing car seat in the backseat of the SUV, according to police. From there, Ross Harris drove less than a mile to his Home Depot office and went to work, leaving Cooper inside the vehicle, warrants state.

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Ross Harris went back to his SUV at lunchtime and put something inside through the driver’s side door. But it was not until after 4 p.m. when he was leaving work to meet friends that ross Harris said he realized his son was still in the backseat, police have said. He told police he immediately pulled into a shopping center for help.

“Oh my God, what have I done?” Ross Harris screamed, according to witnesses. Harris placed the boy on the parking lot pavement and began to administer CPR on him as witnesses gathered and also tried to help revive Cooper.

“When someone came to assist Justin he stopped providing medical attention to the child and started making calls on his cellphone,” the affidavits state.

Cooper was pronounced dead in the parking lot. An autopsy later determined that he died from hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature, according to police.