The 35-year-old father displayed strange behavior after the death of his son, Cooper

By Steve Helling
Updated September 16, 2015 08:05 AM
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Credit: Kelly J. Huff/Marietta Daily Journal/AP

Justin Ross Harris, the man accused of murdering his 22-month-old son, Cooper, by leaving him in a hot car, was combative with first responders after discovering his son’s body.

That was the testimony of Detective Jacquelyn Piper during Tuesday’s motion hearings in Cobb County court.

After discovering his son’s body, the former Home Depot employee grew agitated with first responders, according to testimony.

Detective Piper testified that Harris was on his cell phone when paramedics and officers arrived on the scene. When a fellow officer instructed him to hang up and talk to police, Harris allegedly yelled “shut the f— up” and continued his phone conversation.

An Unemotional Police Interview

But police say that hours later, Harris had completely changed, and appeared relaxed and unemotional during a police interview at the precinct.

Detective Phil Stoddard testified on Tuesday that Harris was calm and even cordial as he answered police questions. Everything changed, however, when Harris was told he could face murder charges. He quickly told police that he had “no malicious intent” to kill the toddler.

Harris’s use of the legal phrase stuck with Stoddard. “We found that unusual,” he testified in court.

In court on Tuesday, attorneys wrangled over Harris’s odd demeanor after discovering Cooper’s body. The defense attempted to bar all Harris’s interaction with police from his upcoming trial.

In a motion obtained by PEOPLE, defense attorney Maddox Kilgore argues that Harris’s interviews with police should be suppressed, claiming that Harris was not read his Miranda rights. “Statements to law enforcement officers were the result of custodial interrogation made without being properly advised of his rights,” he wrote.

Last September, Harris was indicted by a grand jury on eight felony counts, including malice murder, cruelty to children and criminal attempt to commit a felony.

While the prosecution alleges that Harris intentionally left Cooper in the car, the defense counters that the death was a “tragic accident.” The jury trial is scheduled to begin later this year.

His Wife ‘Has Forgiven Him’

One of the biggest question marks during the upcoming trial will be the role of Harris’s wife, Leanna.

Although Harris was allegedly sexting six different women while his son died, she has steadfastly stood by him. In a victim impact statement, she called him “a good father.”

“She has forgiven him,” a source close to Leanna Harris tells PEOPLE. “She stands behind him and remains convinced of his innocence. She believes this was an accident, and just wants her husband to come home.”

The sexting has gotten Harris in further legal trouble. Prosecutors allege that the one of the recipients of his lewd texts was just 16 years old.

Harris, who has remained in jail since June 2014, will appear in court for more hearings next month. His trial is scheduled for later in the year.

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