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Ga. dad won’t face death penalty in son’s death inside car

ATLANTA — A Georgia man accused of leaving his toddler son to die inside a hot car will not face the death penalty, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds said in an emailed statement that he won’t seek the death penalty against Justin Ross Harris after reviewing the state’s death penalty statute and other factors. He declined to elaborate.

Police have said the toddler was left in the vehicle for about seven hours on a day when temperatures in the Atlanta area reached at least into the high 80s. The medical examiner’s office has said the boy died of hyperthermia — essentially overheating — and called his death a homicide.

Harris’ attorney Maddox Kilgore did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Harris faces multiple charges, including malice murder, felony murder and cruelty to children. The malice murder charge indicates prosecutors intend to prove Harris intentionally left his 22-month-old son Cooper to die in the hot car.

The eight-count indictment also includes charges related to sexually explicit exchanges prosecutors say Harris had with an underage girl.

During a three-hour bond and probable cause hearing in July, Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring questioned a police detective at length, outlining evidence he said proved that Harris intentionally left his young boy in the hot SUV. Harris was sitting in his office exchanging nude photos with several women, including a teenager, the day his son died, Cobb County Police Detective Phil Stoddard testified at the hearing.

The indictment also accuses Harris of asking a girl under the age of 18 to send him a nude photo and of sending nude photos of himself and sexually explicit messages to her. It charges him with attempting to sexually exploit a child and with disseminating harmful material to a minor.

Harris’ attorney has said the state has introduced several inconsistent theories about a potential motive in the boy’s death, which he has said was a terrible accident.

Harris is a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and moved to Georgia in 2012 to work for Home Depot.

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