TIME Crime

Mother of Child Who Died in Overheated Car Defends Husband

Justin Ross Harris, who has been charged with his son's murder after leaving him in a car for seven hours, was a "wonderful father," says Leanna Harris

Leanna Harris, the Georgia mother of a child who died in the extreme heat of their car after her husband mistakenly left the toddler inside, defended her spouse at their son’s funeral on Saturday.

“Am I angry with Ross?” she said at the ceremony in Tuscaloosa, Ala., speaking publicly for the first time since her husband was charged with murder and second-degree child cruelty earlier this month, CNN reports. “Absolutely not. It has never crossed my mind. Ross is and was and will be, if we have more children, a wonderful father. Ross is a wonderful daddy and leader for our household. Cooper meant the world to him.”

Justin Ross Harris, 33, told police he forgot to take his 22-month-old son Cooper to his day-care facility before heading to work. Cooper died after spending seven hours in the back of the family’s SUV, the second death of a child left in a car that week. Harris has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He called into the funeral from the Cobb County jail near Atlanta. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for my boy,” Harris said. “No words to say. Just horrible … I’m just sorry I can’t be there.”

Leanna Harris told her husband she loved him and credited her faith with helping her cope. “Some of you might wonder how I’m even standing here today,” she said. “I wonder that myself, and I asked myself that question over and over the last week. I should be crumpled into a heap of snot and tears into the dirt, but the Lord is holding me up right now.”


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