The state called five more witnesses today for a total of 19 witnesses thus far. It was a short day for the jury as there were scheduling problems for some witnesses. Keep in mind that, because of the change of venue, witnesses have to travel to Brunswick from the Atlanta area. Friday is expected to be a full day of testimony. Jurors asked to start the day at 8:30 am ET and finish around 4:30 pm everyday.
15. Melanie Gibson – Executive Director Home Depot Child Care Services, Little Apron Academy
Gibson manages childcare services for Home Depot employees. Cooper attended the Little Apron Academy since he was an infant. Gibson described Harris as being the more outgoing parent compared to his wife Leanna who was more reserved. Harris usually dropped off Cooper in the morning around 8:40-8:45 am. If he were running late, Harris would normally call.
16. Keyatta Patrick – Little Apron Academy – Early Childhood Teacher
Patrick observed Cooper progress from being a child to toddler, and observed milestones in his development from crawling to walking to speaking. She, too, testified that Harris was the parent who dropped off Cooper more often than his wife, and Cooper frequently had breakfast at the day care. On the occasions that Cooper ate breakfast before he got to the day care, Harris would tell the day care workers his son had already eaten. Patrick said Harris did not call the morning that Cooper died.
She said that Harris normally dropped Cooper off between 8:30 and 8:45, and his mother would pick him up around 4:30.
While she testified that Harris seemed like a loving parent, who took pictures of his son every day, she noticed that about two weeks before Cooper died, Harris had stopped taking pictures of him. She asked him why and claims that Harris said: “He’s getting older.”
On cross Patrick said Harris was very involved with his son, and confirmed that on at least 2 occasions, Harris dressed up to entertain his son and the children in the afternoon. She said he appeared loving and did not suspect him of any ill treatment toward his son.
The defense suggested that as Cooper got older it got more difficult to take his picture because he was more mobile, but the witness disagreed saying that most of the time Harris took the picture when his son was seated.
17. Azure Hawkins, Little Apron Academy, Toddler Teacher
Hawkins who worked from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, taught Cooper for about a year, and described him as “normal and happy.”
Like the previous two witnesses, she said it was mainly “Dad” who dropped Cooper off between 8:30 am and 9:15 am. Cooper ate breakfast most days at school, and when he didn’t eat at school, he ate at Chick-fil-A or at home.
On the occasions that Cooper had breakfast at Chick-fil-A, he arrived at the day care, awake and alert. On June 18, 2014, the day Cooper died, she had already left the Academy by the time Cooper’s mother arrived to pick him up, apparently unaware that her son had not come in that day.
18. Michelle Gray, Cooper’s former teacher, Little Apron Academy
Gray assisted in supervising Toddler 5 – Cooper’s classroom. She had been at the Academy for about a year, and noticed that after she returned from maternity leave (early March to late April), Cooper had begun to talk. She recalled that it was normally Harris who handled the drop off, and that it could be as late as 10:00 am to 10:30 am.
She testified that she sent out “What in the World” emails to the parents of children attending the Academy with an attachment that included pictures of various children participating in activities.
Gray was at the school when Leanna came to pick up Cooper. She described Leanna as confused and frantic.
On cross the defense focused on police questioning of the witness suggesting the police had “rushed to judgment” early in their investigation, and this witness had been repeatedly asked about a phone call that Harris made to the day care. Gray denied she was at the other end of the phone call, which appeared to anger the investigators who had threatened her with criminal prosecution and even asked if she was romantically involved with Harris.
Also on cross the witness was asked about the emails she sent, which the prosecution may suggest should have triggered Harris’s memory about his son. Gray said the emails don’t show absences.
19. Jeffrey Jackson, Home Depot IT Security
Jackson pulled the Home Depot phone records. Nothing more was elicited about these records. (NOTE: I suspect we’ll hear more from a later witness.)
Court will resume at 8:30 am ET tomorrow.