By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia man charged with killing his 22-month-old son sent an online message saying: "I love my son and all but we both need escapes," just hours before his child was found dead in the back seat of a hot car, according to court testimony on Monday.
Prosecutors said the message to a woman and other online chats established motive in the murder case of Ross Harris, 34, who was charged after authorities said he left his son, Cooper, in a car for seven hours in June 2014.
"It can’t be more apparent than in his own words,” Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told a Cobb County judge. “He loved his son and all but they both needed escapes.”
Harris was a self-described “sex addict,” the prosecutor said, adding the death of his son would have helped further his ability to have extramarital affairs.
Harris' attorneys argued his online affairs had nothing to do with the toddler's death and sought to have "sexting" charges against Harris separated from the murder case.
Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley rejected that motion on Monday, finding that Harris’ texts and emails with women other than his wife could help prosecutors establish motive and his state of mind before the death.
Cobb County police detective Phil Stoddard testified that Harris was having breakfast with his son on the day of the toddler's death when Harris sent the "escapes" message to a woman who had posted online that she hated having children.
Harris also said he missed “having time to myself and going out with my friends,” the detective said.
Harris told police he forgot to drop his son off at daycare on his way to work and discovered the child after he left the office that afternoon. Harris' attorney, Maddox Kilgore, has called Cooper's death a "horrible and gut-wrenching accident."
Prosecutors have said Harris killed the toddler so he could live a "child-free" life.
On Monday, Staley also refused to dismiss an indictment against Harris on a charge of attempting to sexually exploit a minor by trying to convince her to send him pictures of her genitals.
The judge set a trial date for Feb. 22.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)