Chuck Boring, an assistant district attorney for Cobb County, said Justin Ross Harris frequently visited online chat rooms where he exchanged sexually explicit photos with multiple women, one of whom was a minor.
Boring painted the picture of a man unsatisfied at home and at work who wanted to lead a childless life.
The revelations came to light in the three-hour probable cause and bond hearing for Harris on Thursday, which ended with Cobb County Magistrate Court Judge Frank Cox denying Harris bond.
Cox also allowed police to continue their investigation into Harris’ actions on June 18, when he drove to work with Cooper Harris and left him in the back seat instead of dropping him off at day care.
Boring said Harris was unhappy at home, leading him to have affairs with women he met online. Boring claimed Harris was unhappy at work and that he had been passed over for a promotion. The couple was also having financial problems, Boring said. They had two life insurance policies on Cooper totaling $27,000, according to Boring.
Boring said Harris’ Internet searches for living a childless life, what it takes for a person to die in a hot car and how to survive prison show a clear view of Harris’ motive. He wanted to live a different life, Boring said, one he had already started living at home by cheating on his wife.
“The evidence is showing us right now that he’s got this whole other life that he’s leading with other personalities,” Boring said at the hearing.
Detective: Harris was having affairs
Boring said Harris was “sexting” multiple women the day his son was strapped inside his car seat in the hot SUV. Harris received photos of “their exposed breasts” and sent back photos of his genitals, said Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard.
Stoddard said police found evidence of these exchanges on chat websites such as Kik and Scout on Harris’ personal computer, and they’re still uncovering more evidence.
“We’ve only scratched the surface,” Stoddard said about how much data is on the computer.
One of the women Harris had sexually explicit conversations online with was 16 years old when they met last year, Stoddard said.
These revelations could lead police to charge Harris with sexual exploitation of a minor, a felony.
Although police have not made those charges yet, Boring did say multiple times Harris had “broken the law in Georgia this year” in reference to his interactions with the minor.
Leanna Harris, Ross Harris’ wife, told police she and her husband had been having intimacy problems, Stoddard said.
Leanna Harris sat emotionless, watching her husband in the third pew of the courtroom throughout the three-hour hearing.
Ross Harris had also met up with women he met on the sites to have sexual relations with them, Stoddard said. And, he added evidence suggests his wife knew he was cheating on her.
Stoddard said police found one chat with an unnamed woman asking Ross Harris if he had a conscience. Stoddard said Ross Harris responded, “Nope.”
Ross Harris’ attorney, Maddox Kilgore, objected multiple times to these comments, but the judge allowed them to be made. Kilgore said he thought the details of Harris’ personal life were unrelated to his intentions the day he left his son in the car.
“I think the real purpose of this is to publicly shame him,” Kilgore said. “It’s not like his family hasn’t been through enough.”
Money problems at home
Problems between the couple also arose in dealing with money, Stoddard said.
Leanna Harris told police she was frustrated by her husband’s sporadic purchases, but he handled the finances for the family.
“(Ross Harris) stated the financials were fine,” Stoddard said.
Boring said the life insurance policies on the child could have been an incentive for Harris to follow his fantasy of living a childless life.
Ross Harris looked into this fantasy when he visited sites where people advocate not having children, police found.
Passed over at work
Boring said another cause for unhappiness that influenced Ross Harris’ state of mind in the months leading up to his son’s death was his position at The Home Depot, where he was a Web developer.
Boring said he might have been frustrated at work ever since he was passed over for a promotion in April.
Harris also applied for a new job at Chick-fil-A’s corporate office in May, Boring said, but he was denied the position.
Stoddard said all the facts surrounding Ross Harris’ state of mind led police to believe he had reason to leave his son in the car that day.
“I think evidence now is showing intent,” Stoddard said.