Dead Boy’s Devoted Daddy

Dead Boy’s Devoted Daddy July 4, 2014

He did lose his teaching license. He now lives in North Carolina. I don’t know if he and his wife are still together, but she rallied beside her man, the way some women do.

I learned a lot about people from that one case. I learned that when someone we identify with commits a wrongdoing we will circle the wagons. Educators who I had known for years treated me as if I had  been the perpetrator.

They quit speaking to me. They wrote me nasty emails. They called the editor at the paper and protested. They claimed we went looking for salacious news stories to discredit the respectable.

They did not at any point rally around the victim.

Instead they defended their peer.

I was honestly gob-smacked by their behavior. Working the cop beat taught me a lot of things about human nature. Mostly it taught me not to be surprised by the level of deviancy to which people, even good people, will stumble.

Or dive.

So when the news broke that a loving, devoted father had been arrested for leaving his toddler son in a vehicle on a hot Georgia day, I knew enough to not immediately suspect the cops of ill-will. I knew there was probably something the cops knew that the rest of us didn’t.

Children do die in hot cars nearly every summer. In 2013, forty-four children died of heatstrokes after being left in hot cars. It’s a tragedy. A terrible, terrible accident that devastates families. Investigations are conducted in these cases, and unless a parent has a history of neglect, or abuse, rarely are arrests made. The general consensus among law enforcement and the courts being that any parent who truly accidentally causes the death of a child in this manner will spend a lifetime suffering. That does not appear to be the case with the dad from Georgia.

Justin Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, who is charged with murder, was in an unhappy marriage and wanted a “child-free life,” said Cobb County Det. Phil Stoddard.

Harris had $25,000 worth of life insurance out on his son. There had been searches on computers he had access to, inquiring about how long it took for a pet to die in a hot car. Harris took his son to breakfast then drove less than a mile to work at Home Depot, then insisted that he “forgot’ to take his son to the daycare, leaving the child instead to suffocate to death.

Now we learn that Harris had been sexting with several women the day 22-month-old Cooper died. Exchanging nude photos  with several women, including a 17-year old girl.

When law enforcement denied Harris the privilege of attending his son’s funeral, his home church supported him. An online protest was signed by 12,000 petitioners.

At Cooper’s funeral, a pastor rebuked the courts for being impersonal, for keeping Harris in jail, denying him bond and the ability to attend his son’s funeral. A children’s pastor testified that Harris was a loving, devoted father.  Not surprisingly, Harris’s church community rose up in defense of him. His wife said she wasn’t angry at God for letting her son die.

Good to know.

God is usually the last one to get an “out” anytime there’s a tragedy. Or, it appears in Cooper’s case, a murder.

All this leaves me wondering, is it really compassion for the victim that compels us to rise up in defense of the all-too-often-guilty, or is it simply more of our usual bent toward self-righteous indignation?

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