By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - After having breakfast with his son at a restaurant last week, a suburban Atlanta man was supposed to drop the 22-month-old toddler at a day-care center on his way to work.
Instead, Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta went to his office and left the child for seven hours in the heat strapped into his car's infant seat, Cobb County police said, according to a new arrest warrant in the case.
Harris was initially charged with felony murder and first-degree child cruelty. The child cruelty charge has been downgraded to second degree.
Under Georgia law, a person commits second-degree child cruelty by subjecting a child to “excessive physical pain” through criminal negligence. First-degree child cruelty is defined as “maliciously” causing pain to a child.
The child was discovered in a shopping center parking lot where Harris had gone after leaving work last Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
Temperatures in the Atlanta area reached 92 degrees (33 C) that day, according to the National Weather Service.
In an updated arrest warrant issued Tuesday, police said that during his lunch hour, Harris went to his office parking lot and placed something in his SUV through the driver’s side door, then returned to his office. The warrant did not say whether Harris realized that the child was in the car when he returned to it at lunch. Cobb police spokesman Michael Bowman declined to comment Wednesday.
Later that afternoon, Harris left work with the baby still in the rear-facing car seat and pulled into a shopping center parking lot, removed the child from the car and sought assistance, police said.
(Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott)