Ex-classmate says dad charged in hot car death was 'a great guy’ - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Ex-classmate says dad charged in hot car death was 'a great guy’

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Justin Harris wipes his eye in court last week. AP photo Justin Harris wipes his eye in court last week. AP photo
Justin Ross Harris (left) and his son, Cooper. Justin Ross Harris (left) and his son, Cooper.
(NBC News) - Investigators are now raising questions about the wife of a Georgia man who has been charged with murder and child cruelty after his toddler son died when he was left in a hot SUV for hours.

Leanna Harris, the wife of suspect Ross Harris, has not been charged, but police are looking into what role, if any, that Leanna may have played in the death of the couple's 22-month-old son, Cooper, on June 18. Prosecutors claim that Ross murdered his son because he was unhappy in his marriage and wanted a child-free life. Harris has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney maintains it was a tragic accident.

"This was not an ordinary marriage, and there is probably a lot more going on that we just don't know about,'' former Cobb County prosecutor Philip Holloway told TODAY Monday.

But a former classmate of Harris' told TODAY that she is in "complete shock" over the charges and that the times Harris talked about his wife, everything seemed normal.

What she said:
  • Former University of Alabama classmate Kristen Riker says she knew Harris from 2010 to 2012, when they graduated. "He was a very family-oriented, nice, genuinely great guy," she told TODAY. "He was very computer-savvy, he was able to help me out on projects when I needed it. ...He was very outgoing, he would tell jokes, he was the life of the class."
  • After hearing the charges, Riker says she was shocked and is "still trying to process all of it."
  • She adds that she hopes he can get a fair trial. "I just want everyone to know that the time I knew him, he was a really great guy... I don't know what to think and I'm trying to stay unbiased until more evidence is revealed."

More on the case:

  • On Leanna Harris' behavior following her son's death: Police say Leanna remained calm when told her son had not been dropped off at daycare on the day he died, and when she was told of his death, she first asked to see her husband rather than her son. When she was later left alone with her husband during a police interview, detective Phil Stoddard said in court that she looked at her husband and said, "Did you say too much?" At their son's funeral, she called her husband "a wonderful father" and has declined comment since then.
  • On Ross Harris' behavior at the time of his child's death: Harris was allegedly "sexting" up to six women at the time Cooper may have been struggling to escape from the stifling SUV, according to police. He has "a whole second life with alternative lives and personas," Stoddard said in court. Police found "abrasions to the back of the child's head," according to Stoddard.
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