A former prostitute who prosecutors say was linked to Justin Ross Harris through cell phone records testified in his hot car death trial on Friday, detailing their three alleged sexual encounters to jurors.
Harris is accused of murdering his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by intentionally leaving him in a hot car for hours while he went to work at Home Depot on June 18, 2014. Harris has always maintained it was a tragic accident.
His trial, at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, began earlier this month but was temporarily suspended due to Hurricane Matthew.
It resumed last week with testimony from Cooper’s teacher and others.
Taking the stand on Friday, Daneila Doerr testified that she was “very confident” she had sex with Harris just weeks before Cooper’s death, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. She said that Harris contacted her through an ad she placed on Backpage.com, and they first met during the week of May 18, 2014.
All three encounters were at the Econo Lodge in Marietta, Georgia, Doerr testified, Fox 5 reports.
“It was strictly business, and you’re on your way,” Doerr alleged, before pointing out Harris in the courtroom as her client, according to the AJC.
Lead investigator Phil Stoddard earlier testified that Harris allegedly exchanged nude photos with several woman, including a then-16-year-old girl, on the day his son died.
On Monday, police officer Ralph Escamillo testified that Doerr’s number was among those found on Harris’ call log.
Harris’ attorney, Maddox Kilgore, has conceded that Harris was involved in “sexually immoral behavior” in the days leading up to Cooper’s death. In addition to the alleged use of prostitutes, Harris had allegedly been sexting with multiple women.
But, Kilgore argued, the sexting was “no motive for [Harris] to murder the person he loved more than anybody in the world.”
Harris’ Change in Routine
On Thursday, former employees of the Little Apron Academy daycare that Cooper attended gave testimony about their interactions with Harris and his ex-wife, Leanna Taylor.
Keyatta Patrick, Cooper’s teacher, testified that Harris’ behavior changed in the weeks leading up to the death, according to WSB.
One standout example, Patrick said, was that Harris allegedly stopped taking pictures of Cooper every morning when he dropped him off — a practice that had become routine.
Harris allegedly told Patrick that he wasn’t photographing his son anymore because he was “getting older,” WSB-TV reports.
Michelle Gray, another former employee of Little Apron, testified on Wednesday that Taylor seemed surprised not to find Cooper in the classroom the afternoon of his death, according to the AJC.
Gray said that when Taylor arrived to the daycare, she asked Taylor, “What are you doing here? Cooper’s not here.”
“[Leanna] was confused, she was frantic,” Gray testified.
Gray’s account of Taylor’s reaction is in contrast to testimony from Stoddard, who previously testified that upon learning that Cooper wasn’t at Little Apron, Taylor told employees — according to multiple witnesses — “Ross must’ve left him in the car.”
Harris’ trial is expected to take up to four weeks. Testimony resumed on Monday.