Officer Mike Bowman, spokesman for Cobb police, said officials from the district attorney’s office picked up the car and car seat involved in the incident from police at 7:30 Tuesday morning and dropped them back off at 5 p.m.
Bowman said the investigators took the vehicle to perform heat testing and noted Cobb police were not present for the tests.
A source close to the investigation said the prosecutors’ staff pulled Justin Ross Harris’ 2011 Hyundai Tucson into the same spot outside the Home Depot corporate office in which it was parked the day of Cooper’s death.
Fox 5’s I-Team reported investigators “seemingly worked to recreate as many of the exact details of the day of the alleged crime as possible,” using an array of instruments that appeared to measure conditions inside the car in real time —including what temperature the SUV’s interior reached during the day.
Joel Pugh, a Marietta attorney, said there are several reasons prosecutors might conduct these tests themselves.
“In my mind, it just shows the amount of resolve that the DA’s office is using to be sure they get it right on this case,” Pugh said.
Pugh noted, among other possible explanations, the prosecution could be running the simulation in order to verify the timeline of June 18 and to attempt to determine whether Cooper was still alive by the time Harris returned to his car at lunch.
Prosecutors could use their findings as demonstrative evidence in a trial, Pugh said.
“They might have video to show a jury,” Pugh said of prosecutors’ tests. “They might also show views from all angles of car with the size of the car seat and child to show how difficult it would have been for this man not to have noticed his child all day.”
Pugh added the investigators could also be attempting to simulate how high temperatures might have climbed inside the SUV per hour that day.
Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base’s weather service indicates the temperature outside at the time the child was found was 88 degrees, but police have said cars can quickly heat up to temperatures above 100 degrees when left in direct sunlight.
The fact that officials from the district attorney’s office — not detectives — staged the simulation is unusual, Pugh said, but not unheard of.
“In this case, I would applaud prosecutors for doing this.”
Fox 5’s I-Team also reported law enforcement sources have said the toxicology screens on Cooper as part of his autopsy have come back “clean,” with no traces of drugs or sedatives found in the toddler’s system.
Harris, 33, was charged with felony murder and cruelty to children after police say his son died from hyperthermia as a result of being left in the back seat of Harris’ car all day.
Harris has maintained he simply forgot to drop Cooper off at day care before heading into work the morning of June 18.
He is being held at the county jail without bond after a magistrate judge denied his attorney’s bond request at a hearing last week.