Leanna Harris has become a person of interest in an ongoing police investigation after her husband, Justin Ross Harris, discovered their 22-month-old son, Cooper, dead in the backseat of his car after he told cops he had forgotten to drop the boy off at day care before going to work.
The story has has grabbed national and international headlines, with details of the case leaving veteran cops shocked. Her eulogy for son Cooper showed she is standing by her husband, in spite of the evidence being uncovered against both him and her. She has not been charged with any crime.
Here’s what you need to know about her:
1. Her Lawyer Said She’s ‘Living Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare’
— HLN On The Case (@HLNonthecase) July 16, 2014
Leanna Harris’ lawyer, Lawrence Zimmerman, issued a statement on behalf of his client Tuesday, comparing her plight to that of hero-turned-suspect Richard Jewell, after he was hounded by the media in connection to the Centennial Olympic Park Bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Leanna Harris is living every parent’s nightmare – the child she bore and loved every moment of his life has died. For most parents, it is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend such a thing. But for Leanna, that nightmare is all too real. She will never again be able to tuck him into bed at night and return later to check on him.
She mourns Cooper’s death deeply, in her own private way. She takes comfort from a strong faith in God, but the loss is still overwhelming. Getting through each day seems almost impossible.
Dealing with her grief has become more difficult as the days go on, however, in large part because of the constant speculation and innuendo in the media. Newspapers, television and online media have fostered a poisonous atmosphere in which Leanna’s every word, action and emotion – or failure to cry in front of a crowd — is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning. In much the same way, the press unjustly harassed and hounded Olympic bombing hero Richard Jewell when he didn’t behave as some thought he should.
Reporters have delved into Leanna’s upbringing, her employment, quizzed people for information about her marriage, and her sex life. The constant attention has prevented her from returning to work.
For Leanna, Cooper’s death has been devastating. She asks that she be allowed to grieve in private without reporters calling, following or watching her home. Since his death, she has been unable to have that time of mourning that every bereaved parent needs. Please allow her the dignity to mourn her son in private.
2. She Researched the Internet for Information on Child Deaths in Cars
Police search warrants show that both Ross and Leanna Harris had searched online looking for information regarding what internal car temperatures could cause child deaths. Both Leanna and Ross said they conducted this research because they were afraid it could happen to their son. The time at which this topic was researched is still unclear.
You can read the search warrants below:
CNN reported that the couple was having financial problems and had taken out two insurance policies on Cooper: one for $25,000 and one for $2,000.
3. She Said Cooper’s Death Was Part of God’s Plan
Leanna Harris made her first public statement since Cooper’s death at the boy’s funeral on June 28 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Of her son’s death, Leanna said, “I miss my son and I will miss him forever.”
Harris declared her love for her husband during the eulogy, saying she was doing this for him. She also talked about how their son had changed their lives and called Cooper perfect. She also affirmed her faith in God by calling the tragedy part of His plan, saying:
I miss him with all of my heart. Would I bring him back? No. To bring him back into this broken world would be selfish. Am I angry with God? No. This is part of His plan for Ross and I. Is this our purpose? I don’t know. I’m still waiting on the Lord to reveal that to me. Am I angry with Ross? 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 children. Cooper meant the world to him. There was not a day that went by that we did not say how blessed we were able to have him in our lives.
4. Leanna Told Cooper’s Daycare Justin ‘Must Have Left Him in the Car’
— HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) June 30, 2014
According to CNN, when Leanna Harris realized Cooper hadn’t been dropped off at daycare, she told employees at the daycare facility, “Ross must have left him in the car.” In spite of employees listing other reasons why Cooper wasn’t at daycare, Leanna insisted her husband left their son in the car. She and Justin took turns dropping Cooper off at daycare.
5. The Couple Had Financial Problems
According to WSB-TV, Ross and Leanna Harris had financial problems after Ross amassed $4,000 of credit card debt in order to rack up airline miles. Ross Harris was trying to start a new business and incurred an unknown amount of debt as a result. Both Ross and Leanna had student and car loans that have not yet been repaid. The couple also took out two separate life insurance policies on Cooper Harris, one for $25,000 and one for $2,000.
In spite of these financial woes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Ross and Leanna were planning to buy a house and move out of the condo they were renting. Their landlord called the couple “very, very nice,” saying, “Everything was going right for this couple. They wanted to buy a house so they could have some space for their child to run around the backyard.”
Last week, the Journal-Constitution briefly spoke to Ross Harris’ father, Reggie, who only said, “We have some pretty strong feelings but we can’t talk right now.”