Immediately after Cooper died, there was an outpouring of sympathy for the Harris’s. That all changed on June 29th when the search warrants were released to the public – search warrants which grossly misrepresented what Ross and Leanna said in their interviews with detectives.
In the 6/18 search warrants for Ross’s electronic devices, Detective Murphy wrote, “During an interview with Ross Harris, he stated that he recently researched the internet child deaths inside vehicles and what temperature it needs to be for that to occur [and] had researched how long it takes someone to die in a hot vehicle.” But this is what Ross actually said in his 6/18 interview: “I just watched a news report of a guy who did this, just like me, and he’s an advocate for when you park, you turn around and look again… and then just recently there was a vet on the internet who said even if you have your windows down and, ya know, I’m going to show you how hot it gets in a car . You think you can leave your pets in the car while you’re running around, but you can’t do that.”
Murphy’s search warrant for Leanna’s electronic devices stated, “Mrs. Harris also had searched online for how long it takes for animals or small children to pass away in vehicles.” But this is what Leanna actually said in her 6/18 interview:
Leanna: It’s always been a big fear of mine, always.
Stockinger: Has anything happened, though, that might —
Leanna: No, no, it’s just always been a fear. You hear about it on the news.
June 18 interview, 20:00
She explained it in more detail at trial.
Kilgore: Do you remember conveying to the detectives that leaving a child in the car was a fear of yours?
Leanna: Yes, it was a fear of mine. It was something you hear about on the news, or a PSA might pop up on facebook talking about the dangers. It had been the center of a few tv shows, the storyline wrapping around that happening to somebody on the show. These were either while I was pregnant with Cooper or before. It was one of those irrational fears. Most people have some kind of irrational fear – heights, water. I didn’t have a reason to fear this, nothing had ever happened to make me fear this, but it was a fear. Ross and I had actually talked about it.
Ross and Leanna were referring, in part, to the Governor’s recent public service announcements on TV promoting the “Look Again” campaign in Georgia. It’s incomprehensible how simply watching a PSA on TV or facebook was twisted and distorted into researching the internet for how long it takes a child to die in a hot car, and what the temperature needs to be. Every bit of information on every single electronic device owned by the Harrises was extracted, and no such searches were found.
May, 2014 PSA
Rodriguez: The reality is, having been given a request form, having been given a search warrant that specifically alleged that Ross and Leanna told them that they researched in-car deaths, you didn’t find anything on this Apple macbook or that iPhone that would corroborate that allegation?
Yeager: I found nothing that made statements to that effect, correct.
Rodriguez: Were you asked to identify anything related to the phrase “what temperature it takes for that to occur?”
Moulton: Yes, I was.
Rodriguez: Did you understand “that” to reference in-car deaths or children dying in cars?
Moulton: Yes sir.
Rodriguez: Did Ross Harris search what temperature it takes for a child to die in a car?
Moulton: No, he did not.
Rodriguez: Were you aware of any searches whatsoever for how long it takes for a child to die in a car?
Moulton: No. He never searched for anything – and I didn’t just search for that or those terms, I searched for context. I looked for other items that might lead to those kinds of conclusions in roundabout ways. I didn’t see him searching at any point in time that would have been how to kill a child in a car or hot car deaths or anything like that.
At the July 3, 2014 probable cause hearing, Stoddard explained that Ross had accessed a website called Reddit, an extremely popular entertainment, news-sharing site with millions of members.
Boring: Less than two months before this child’s death, did he go to any topics pertinent to this case and motive, what was in his mind?
Stoddard: He did. He went to a subreddit called “Childfree.” It’s people who advocate living child-free. They advocate not having any more children and adding to the biomass.
Now, it’s true that investigations are fluid. New evidence and witness’s statements become available as information emerges, and law enforcement cannot be faulted for that. What happened here is different, though. Two weeks after Cooper’s death, they were linking Ross’s visit to a childfree subreddit as a motive for murder, before they even knew why or how Ross had accessed that site. Did he personally search for this childfree site? How many times did he access it? Was he a member of this or any other childfree site? Did he post comments indicating that he wanted a child-free life?
Good questions, and they were answered at trial.
Kilgore: So R/childfree exists?
Kilgore: Do you remember typing that?
Hall: I probably saw it on the Reddit homepage.
Kilgore: And you put it out there for the fellas to see and you give a little explanation. You say “It’s the r\ atheism of not having kids.”
Kilgore: You don’t subscribe to that philosophy of never having children, do you?
Hall: No, I was making fun of the comment.
Kilgore: Did you see what Ross’s response was?
Hall: Yes, he wasn’t for it.
Kilgore: In fact, his response was “grossness.”
Kilgore: You’ve never heard Ross subscribe to living child free, have you?
Kilgore: You’ve never known him to join any group subscribing to a philosophy of living child-free?
Kilgore: Within 20 seconds of you putting that out there, he responded “Grossness.”
Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian, posted a 2012 public service announcement on Youtube to illustrate the dangers of leaving pets in a car on a hot day. As noted above, Ross told Stoddard about this video in his interview on June 18th. You’d think that if he was trying to get away with murder, that’s the last thing he’d want detectives to know, but Stoddard saw something nefarious in his admission.
Dr. Ernie Ward video
As expected, it was an incriminating topic at the probable cause hearing.
Boring: Did he talk about a video?
Stoddard: Yes, this video was about heat-related deaths of animals in cars. I found the actual video that he described to me. The video is about six minutes long and it shows you the times and temperatures, and how hot it gets in the car.
Boring: From your examination, was this a video that he had viewed once?
Boring: How many times did he view it?
Stoddard: He viewed it twice.
No, he didn’t. It’s a six-minute video that was clicked on twice within one second.
Rodriguez: What are the two times that he visited that video?
Persinger: Both on June 13th, 2014. One at 4:59:09 and the other on the same date at 4:59:10.
Rodriguez: How long is that video, almost six minutes?
Persinger: I’d agree with that.
Rodriguez: You’d agree it’s impossible to watch a six-minute video within one second.
Persinger: Sir, this isn’t indicating how long he watched it. He could have had two tabs open. Since he’s a multi-user of multi-browsers, he could have had two browsers open and watched the video on two different tabs within his browser.
Sure, he could have, but it makes no sense why he would choose to watch the same video, at the same time, on two different browsers. Scott Moulton explained why.
Moulton: There was an access that showed two, so I was asked to look at that. It was a Reddit post, so when you click on it, it launches YouTube. During that process I saw a refresh, so the two were actually one second apart. So when you’re looking at YouTube and see the refresh, it was within one second of each other.
Rodriguez: Could he have clicked on the video in one tab & a second later opened it in another tab and he’s watching the video at the same time simultaneously with the video playing one second apart?
Moulton: It’s possible if you were really quick, but not likely. Not much value in watching a video twice at the same time. You’d also have overlapping in sound which would be a problem. It doesn’t make sense. He never went back to it, never viewed it before 6/13/14 . This was an old video, published in 2012. It’s been viewed by 2.2 million people at this point.
Here’s the rub for the prosecution: Viewing a trending video once, especially one with 2.2 million hits, is not a big deal. We all do it. But viewing it twice? Well, that might justify the word research in the search warrants as to how to murder your child in a hot car. The following is Murphy’s testimony at the December 2015 Suppression Hearing.
Lumpkin: You have since learned that Mr. Harris never said that he researched child deaths, correct?
Murphy: Specifically using those words, no.
Lumpkin: You certainly don’t include watching a news report as being the definition of research, correct?
Murphy: It depends on how you define research. I’d say research is gaining information on something.
Lumpkin: But Mr. Harris said he watched news reports. You’d agree that’s not research, correct?
Murphy: No, I think it is research.
Well, there you have it, folks. When you see a car accident on the evening news, you’re not simply watching it. You’re researching it! The bottom line is that Murphy didn’t see or hear Stoddard’s interview with Ross Harris on June 18th. He wouldn’t say who gave him the information, didn’t even know if it was factual, but he followed Stoddard’s orders to apply for the search warrants.
Kilgore’s re-cross of Stoddard.
Kilgore: At the probable cause hearing you were asked how many times Ross viewed the PSA vet video?
Stoddard: Yes, My response was “he viewed it twice.”
Kilgore: And if you swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and you testified that he viewed it twice. That’s not true, is it.
Stoddard: I don’t know.
Kilgore: Well, why did you testify to it if you didn’t know?
Stoddard: Because it was accessed twice.
Kilgore: Then why didn’t you testify that it was accessed twice?
Stoddard: I misspoke at the probable cause hearing.
The prosecution’s case was based solely on Ross’s infidelity. He sexted with other women, and he did it a lot. There were thousands of graphic images, as well as the social media Kik and Whisper apps on his phone. If murder was on his mind, all he had to do was delete those photos and apps. Simple. But he didn’t. In fact, he continued sexting after arriving at work on June 18th. Again, it’s completely inconsistent with a devious plan to get away with murder.
Despite the massive amount of exculpatory evidence the detectives ignored, they did manage to find a June 18th post from someone with the user name Always in my Feelings: “I hate being married with kids. The novelty has worn off and I have nothing to show for it.”
Testimony from the October 2015 hearing.
Kilgore: Up until very recently, you believed that Ross posted “I hate being married with kids.”
Stoddard: Not correct.
Kilgore: You never thought —
Stoddard: Well, when we first saw it, yes. There was a suspicio–I did suspect that he had written and posted it.
Stoddard knew from day one that Cooper was Ross and Leanna’s only child. It’s mind boggling that he would suspect Ross was the author of a post that refers to “kids.”