COBB COUNTY, Ga. - The man accused of killing his child in a hot car has been indicted on child exploitation charges, according to prosecutors.
The Cobb County District Attorney announced the additional charges for Ross Harris on Friday afternoon. Those include two counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children and six counts of Dissemination of Harmful Material to Minors.
The allegations, which involve three underage girls, claim Harris sent nude photos, received nude photos, and sent explicit messages to the girls from January to May 2014.
Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds released a statement regarding the additional charges:
“This case will not be tried by the State in the media. The recent indictment is based on advances in electronic forensic analysis in conjunction with recent interviews of newly discovered victims. Had the State delayed charging any further, prosecution of some of the charges would have barred by the statute of limitations.”
In response to the latest charges, Ross Harris' attorneys released the following statement:
"Despite possessing Ross Harris’ cell phone for almost two years, the Cobb County District Attorney has only now chosen to indict Ross for some alleged consensual electronic communications. We are concerned that the timing of this indictment is a calculated maneuver to inflame public opinion against Ross on the eve of jury selection. It is clear that these allegations are wholly unrelated to the accidental death of Cooper Harris.
"After more than a twenty-month investigation into every imaginable detail of Ross Harris’ life, this new indictment alleges no acts of cruelty, no deprivation, no abuse, nor any neglect of Cooper. The content and timing of this indictment confirms the absence of such evidence, and it signals the State’s desperation to convict Ross of the worst mistake any of us as parents could make."
Harris is charged in the death of his son, Cooper. The 22-month-old was found dead in the back of his father's SUV back in June of 2014. At his pre-trial hearings, prosecutors said Harris intentionally left the toddler in the hot car for hours while he engaged in sexually-explicit conversation with six young women, including a teenager. Evidence presented in open court suggested sexting had been on-going for at least a year.
Detectives said Harris used the social media app called KIK to communicate with teenagers. Investigators said Harris asked a 17-year-old girl to send him a picture of her lower private part. Detectives said Harris met the girl online when she was 16-years-old and knew exactly how old she was, but deceived the teen of his age. They said Harris engaged in affairs and wanted to escape his married life and saw his son, Cooper, as in the way of enjoying his life.
Defense attorneys conceded Harris had contact with four women on social media around the time of the death, but all of those women told investigators Harris loved his son and would never do anything to harm him. The defense had asked to throw out the so-called “bad acts” evidence as they argued it would force a bias against Harris.
Since the pre-trial hearings, Ross Harris’ wife, Leanna Harris has filed for divorce. In the complaint, Leanna Harris said their marriage is "irretrievably broken." The couple was married on May 27, 2006 and has been separated since June 18, 2014.
Ross Harris' murder trial is set to begin on April 11.