Could Mother Have Known About Toddler’s Death

Cooper Harris, the twenty-two month old toddler killed last month after being left to bake in a hot car was buried on Saturday. But questions remain as Cooper’s father, Justin Ross Harris has been charged in the boy’s death after investigators found someone in the home had searched the internet for information on dying in hot cars. His behavior during the day has also made the father’s claim that he was absent-minded, seem unrealistic.

The morning of the boy’s death, Justin Ross Harris bought his son breakfast and should have then dropped him off at daycare, but instead drove to work. Around noon, he returned to his car to put light bulbs he had purchased in his car. He also received an e-mail from the daycare. And police have found that while at work, Justin Harris often communicated with numerous women, including sexting on the day of the incident. But nothing reminded him that he had left his son in the back of his car until he drove off after work and discovered him dead in the back.

Toxicology reports have come back with no drugs or medication in the boy’s system and investigators are running experiments to determine how hot the car would have gotten that day (could have been as high as 140 degrees!)

It all adds up to some very serious questions about this boy’s death. Police are sure the father is guilty of murder and the grand jury agreed there is enough evidence to try the father. The next question is whether the mother, Leanna Harris is involved as well.

Reports have stated that Leanna acted strangely before and even on the day her son died.  When she arrived at the day care to pick her son up and learned that he wasn’t there, she allegedly stated, “Ross must have left him in the car.” Even though workers told her there could be other reasons her husband failed to drop the boy off, she repeated it. Also when police were investigating the internet searches on car deaths, Leanna claims they made the search together as they were curious on ‘how it occurs.”

More information will come out in the coming weeks as police continue to investigate and as we move closer to Justin Ross Harris’ trial. Leanna Harris has now obtained  a criminal attorney.

Image Credit: The Marietta Daily Journal

Book Trailer for CHASING DEMONS by Melissa M. Garcia.

Created by Haley Kamola

For more information on CHASING DEMONS visit


Yes, the sequel to FALLING ANGELS is on it’s way. I’ve promised you all and I swear it’s close. But it’s like my child. I watched it grow up from just a small baby of an idea and now it’s blossomed into a full-length crime novel. I want to share CHASING DEMONS with all of you, but I’m nervous. Is it ready to be out in the world? It recently left for about two months and spent some time with my editor, but it’s back for one last review and I’m hesitant to let it out of my sight again. But alas, I know I must let it go. So, as it leaves me today to get formatted for publishing, I will tease you with the summary. 


Journalist and ex-car thief, Luc Actar has finally decided to settle down. He’s traded in his life of crime for the life he’s always wanted. He’s moved in with his recently-divorced girlfriend, Mattie Hardwin in her large Malibu home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He’s back at work at the Crime Reporterinvestigating stories of corruption and abuse by the political and legal authorities of Los Angeles County.  

When detectives arrive to inform Luc of the death of his father, Luc is hesitant to get involved. But once he discovers a powerful leader in the mental health industry is pulling the strings in his father’s investigation, Luc is determined to take him down. As he chases the demons of his past, Luc unknowingly steps right into the crosshairs of a killer determined to keep his own life from falling apart.


Born in La Mirada, California, Melissa M. Garcia (@MelissaM_Garcia) has lived most of her life in the sometimes gritty, always entertaining, and ever-changing landscape that is Southern California. She graduated from California State University in Long Beach with a degree in English/Literature. Melissa is the author of the Luc Actar crime series (including FALLING ANGELS and CHASING DEMONS) and the Death Valley Mystery series (STRANGER: A DEATH VALLEY MYSTERY). Melissa recently released an e-book collection, Faith Departed: Short Stories of Mystery, Crime, and Despair. Melissa is also the author of the online blog, “Musings from a Crime Writer.” Her novels are available in paperback and e-book formats. She currently lives with her husband in Southern California and is at work on the next Death Valley Mystery.

My Top Crime Stories for the Week

MISSING. In Evansdale, Iowa, 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins and 10-year-old Lyric Cook were last seen by their grandmother on Friday when the two cousins left to go on a bike ride. Their bicycles were located hours after they were reported missing near a lake. A massive volunteer search over the weekend failed to locate the girls. Scent dogs used by searchers looking for signs of two missing young girls in Iowa ran around a lake and stopped at the water’s edge, but the mother of one of the girls doesn’t believe the girls had gone swimming. She believes the girls were abducted.


ARRESTED. Police have made an arrest in the abduction attempt in South Philadelphia that was caught on video. The surveillance video shows a 10-year-old girl, with her 2-year-old brother, walking home on Tuesday afternoon. The video shows an unknown male following them in a white vehicle. The video shows the suspect grabbing the girl and attempting to carry her away, but she bit him causing him to drop her. He tries again, but the girl fights as her brother screams. The man eventually let the child go and ran back to his vehicle. A suspect was arrested after turning himself into authorities.

IDENTITY THEFT. An Estonian man was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday for his role in stealing more than 240,000 credit card numbers. Aleksandr Suvorov hacked into a computer system belonging to the Dave & Buster’s restaurant chain to steal the credit card numbers of 81,000 customers. Suvorov attempted to sell more than 160,000 stolen credit card numbers to a buyer in San Diego.

ART CRIME. Undercover FBI agents in Florida found what investigators believe is a stolen Henri Matisse painting that had been missing for nearly a decade. Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City were charged with transporting and possessing the stolen painting after trying to sell “Odalisque in Red Pants,” valued at $3 million to undercover agents.

And finally…

STRANGE. A woman in Texas was charged with child endangerment for leaving her children after her car collided with a Houston bus. She allegedly walked to a nearby CVS drug store and started taking off her clothes as she ate ice cream. The Texas mom’s three children, ages 5, 12 and 16, were in the car when the collision occurred.  Officials say all three suffered minor injuries and have since been released to their grandmother.

And this is why I write crime fiction…

The Butcher of Montreal

Luka Rocco Magnotta, the Canadian porn actor (dubbed “The Butcher of Montreal” by French media) accused of killing and dismembering a man and mailing body parts to politicians, was arrested in Germany and will be extradited back to Canada.

The case began on May 29, when police were called due to complaints of a strong smell coming from an alley behind Magnotta’s Montreal apartment building. Investigators found a torso stuffed inside a suitcase. Later that day, officials at Canada’s Conservative Party headquarters received a package addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that contained a foot. Officials later intercepted a package addressed to the Liberal Party that contained a hand.

The 29-year-old, Magnotta faces first-degree murder, defiling a corpse and other charges.Police identified the victim as Chinese university student Jun Lin, 33, who they believe had dated Magnotta.

Police suspect Magnotta filmed the murder after a grisly video was posted online showing a man stabbing another man with an ice pick while the victim lies naked and tied up.

The first man later reveals he has slashed the other man’s throat and goes on to dismember the corpse and perform sexual acts with it. Police have confirmed that the sickening film is authentic.

Magnotta’s intense desire for attention was his downfall. He was arrested at an internet cafe in Berlin where he was perusing online articles about himself.

Police are still searching for the rest of Lin’s remains as Magnotta sits in solitary confinement awaiting extradition.

Ripped from the Headlines

On December 7, 2009 the Powell family was reported missing. Joshua Powell and his two sons, age 4 and 2 returned home and told authorities they had gone camping and his wife, Susan Powell had remained home. Her purse, cell phone, and car  were left behind at her home in West Valley City, near Salt Lake City, Utah. Suspicion soon turned to the husband, Joshua, who quickly retained a lawyer. Police searched the home and questioned the four-year-old boy whom confirmed the camping trip.

For two years, authorities, friends and family have searched for Susan Powell, with no luck. In January 2010, Joshua moved to Puyallup, Washington with his two boys and his father Steve Powell.

On September 22, 2011, Steve Powell was arrested on charges of voyeurism and child pornography. Joshua Powell also became the “subject” in the child porn investigation.Chuck Cox, Susan Cox Powell’s father, filed for custody of the children the day after Steve Powell was arrested. A Washington court eventually granted temporary custody of the children to Chuck Cox.

With limited rights to his own children, Joshua began a downward spiral. The case was getting stronger that Joshua was responsible for his wife’s disappearance.

Yesterday, Joshua decided to end it all.  Powell was standing outside his home waiting for a social worker to bring his two boys,  Braden, 5, and Charlie, 7, for a supervised visit. After shoving the social worker, he grabbed his children and locked themselves in the home. Shortly before he set fire to his home, Joshua apparently sent an e-mail to his attorney. “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” The social worker stated she smelled gas and called her superiors. She had moved away from the house just before it blew up.

Authorities will continue to search for answers in Susan’s disappearance and the murder of her two children.

The Long Island Serial Killer

Yes, he’s still out there preying on victims and the NY Police are still hunting him. The Long Island Serial Killer is believed to have been operating in the NY area for the past 15 years and authorities have found 10 of his victims. Only five have been identified, but police believe the killer is targeting those working as prostitutes or in the sex trade.

The investigation into the killer was started when authorities began searching for a missing prostitute, not believed to be part of the killer’s victims. When 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert disappeared, police started a search. Last December, they stumbled upon what would eventually become 10 sets of human remains in the underbrush along a beach highway on a barrier island south of Long Island.

And the Long Island Serial Killer became headline news. A year later, we still have very little information on who he is. If you’re a fan of the television drama Dexter, or have followed serial killer stories in the past, you know that the Long Island Serial Killer looks like a normal human walking among us everyday. But he enjoys killing.

What’s more disturbing is that police believe he may be a fan of crime drama shows like CSI as he is very adept at covering his tracks. His actions have prevented many of his victims from being identified. 

Luckily, the police are getting closer to finding Shannan Gilbert. They recently found her clothing, phone, and ID close to where she disappeared 18 months ago. Police believe she was distraught and may have wandered into a marshy area and drowned. They continue to look for her body.

The hunt for a serial killer also continues.

All About “STRANGER: A DEATH VALLEY MYSTERY” by Melissa M. Garcia


There is a dead body in room 110 of the Death Valley Motel, and the evidence points to murder. Managers Ric and Alex Delgado, siblings with police work in their blood, chose this small Death Valley city specifically because it appeared to be a quiet place in which Alex could heal from the violent traumas of her past. Now a killer has struck too close to Alex, opening old wounds and threatening her new life.

The situation gets more complicated when Detective Will Stellar trains his observant eye on the siblings and ascertains they have something to hide. Murder seems to follow Alex Delgado, and Detective Stellar is certain she is a dangerous woman. Racing against time and against each other, the Delgados and Detective Stellar risk their lives to uncover the truth, which is ever more complicated and dangerous than any of them have imagined.


Born in La Mirada, California, Melissa M. Garcia has lived almost her entire life in the sometimes gritty, always entertaining, and ever-changing landscape that is Southern California. She graduated from California State University in Long Beach with a degree in English/Literature. She published her first mystery novel, FALLING ANGELS, in 2006. Her second novel, STRANGER: A DEATH VALLEY MYSTERY was published in 2010. Melissa is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and supports the Crime Lab Project. Her novels are available in paperback and ebook formats. She currently lives with her husband in Southern California and is at work on her next novel, CHASING DEMONS, the sequel to FALLING ANGELS due out in

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All About “FALLING ANGELS” by Melissa M. Garcia


After a panicked call from his best friend, Mattie Hardwin, Luc Actar must return to Los Angeles and the life he fled three years earlier. Mattie’s husband, a prestigious lawyer named Spencer Hardwin, has mysteriously disappeared. Desperate for assistance, Luc enlists the help of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in his search to find Spencer, despite his better judgment. But he soon learns that the detectives have their own reasons for locating Spencer—the lawyer has become the prime suspect in a drug dealer’s brutal murder.

As he hunts for the man he thought he knew, Luc’s history with Mattie haunts his dreams and drives him to the depths of the misery he once escaped. Back on the streets of Los Angeles, Luc employs old friends and encounters childhood rivals to take on the sheriff’s department, while a slew of lawyers impede his every move to save those closest to him from an unknown killer.


Born in La Mirada, California, Melissa M. Garcia has lived almost her entire life in the sometimes gritty, always entertaining, and ever-changing landscape that is Southern California. She graduated from California State University in Long Beach with a degree in English/Literature. She published her first mystery novel, FALLING ANGELS, in 2006. Her second novel, STRANGER: A DEATH VALLEY MYSTERY was published in 2010. Melissa is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and supports the Crime Lab Project. Her novels are available in paperback and ebook formats. She currently lives with her husband in Southern California and is at work on her next novel, CHASING DEMONS, the sequel to FALLING ANGELS due out in 2012.

WHERE CAN I PURCHASE: Paperback, For Kindle

Barnes&Noble: Paperback or For Nook

Apple ibookstore

Smashwords: For download to any device

More on the Spreckels Case…

For those of you interested in the Spreckels Mansion investigation in Coronado, California, this link will bring you to the press conference video and crime scene photos from both incidents.

Also, I’ve discovered the message Rebecca supposedly wrote on the wall was, “She Saved Him Can You Save Her.” How strange!

Doubts still remain even though the San Diego Sheriff’s have closed the case. The family’s attorney is pushing for the case to be examined as other experts have looked at the autopsy findings and crime scene photos and come to a different conclusion.

What I learned in Homicide School

After taking a two-day course taught by Global Training Institute, I was overwhelmed with information on law enforcement and the officers fighting crime in Southern California. Here are a few things I learned that I think all crime writers should know:

California Penal Codes - Granted these can be looked up on the internet nowadays (I even have a hard copy of the California Penal Code, but it’s still can be daunting to peruse). I learned there is no such penal code for B&E. ‘Breaking and Entering’ is a reference under the Burglary Penal Code 459. I also learned that you can be charged with Battery PC 242 or Assault PC 240, but you can’t be charged with both. It’s one or the other.

Crime Scene Investigation - Homicide Detectives don’t rush onto a crime scene. They wait for everyone to arrive, including other detectives, Crime Scene Investigators (CSI or SID) and then they hold a briefing to discuss the situation and start a crime scene log.

Also, did you know that cops can’t enter a house without a warrant, even if it’s a crime scene (unless given permission by the owners-impossible if the owner is the one dead in the living room)?

Trace Evidence Collection - During the class, we also learned about Locard exchange, GSR, and Amido Black. (If you don’t know what these are and you write about crime, you need to attend Homicide School!)

Decomp & Blood - The most interesting sessions of the weekend were the sessions on Decomposition and Bloodstain Pattern Recognition. I learned what happens when death occurs and the states of decomp. I also can identify the different types of blood spatter, including arterial spurting, satellite stains, skeleton stains, cast off and void patterns. Fascinating stuff!

Court Cases - We briefly discussed the legal aspects such as the fourth amendment, the difference between murder and homicide, excusable or OIS (Officer Involved Shooting), and the difference between first and second degree murder.

I want to thank Sergeant Derek Pacifico, President and Founder of Global Training Institute for putting on such a world-class training event, and including several case studies for our discussion. Anyone interested in more information on the next event, feel free to contact me and I will forward you Pacifico’s information.

When Alex Delgado was released from prison, she expected a quiet existence far from LA and the ghosts of her past. But a dead body in room 110 and a suspicious detective have her fighting for her life.

The Death of Mitrice Richardson

A lot has been said about the LA Sheriff’s possible mishandling of the arrest of Mitrice Richardson on September 16, 2009. Whether they should have released her in the dead of night with no transportation, no cell phone and no identification is up for debate.

What’s more alarming is what happened after she walked out of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 1am. Mitrice disappeared.

Nearly a year later, on August 9, her nude remains were found in the Lost Hills/Malibu Canyon. Sheriff’s officials stated there was no sign of foul play. Nor do they believe she fell to her death. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office estimated that her remains had been there at least six months, or possibly the entire time she had been missing.

In November 2010, during a family excursion to the remote, rugged area, Latrice Sutton, the victim’s mother found a finger bone. In February, eight more bones were discovered by the Coroner’s office and search and rescue teams. All nine bones have been confirmed to be from Mitrice Richardson. Just recently, some of the clothing found near the scene was finally sent to the LASD Crime Lab for examination.

It can be confusing that a young beautiful woman, with bi-polar disease could be released in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on her back, but what’s more disturbing is no one is searching for a possible killer.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winters at the LA County Coroner’s office has agreed this case was not handled properly from the start. Among the issues, Sheriff’s deputies removed the bones from the site against the will of the Coroner’s office. Also, certain tests of the remains were overlooked prior to her burial.

Mitrice’s remains were exhumed on July 13 and will finally undergo important analysis overlooked two years ago. Maybe now we can find out what really happened to Mitrice Richardson and search for a possible killer to face justice.