House Hunting

There was abundant evidence that the Harrises planned a future that included their little boy. In February 2014, he and Leanna met with Roger Webb at his Marietta office to discuss buying a house. Ross and Leanna had leased their condo from Webb in 2012 when they moved to Georgia.

Rodriguez: What was the purpose of the e-mail that you received in January 2014?
Webb: He wanted to set up a meeting at our office to talk about specific areas in Cobb County that were important to him, and finding homes that were in a good school district.
Rodriguez: What kind of homes were you looking for and where?
Webb: The primary focus was the Cobb County school district and some other areas with good schools, excellent test scores. That was very important to him. He wanted to make sure that we were in his budget, but the school systems were the main focus.

Numerous e-mails were exchanged between Roger Webb and Ross starting in January 2014. Webb set them up on a listing book messenger, an automatic e-mail sent each morning to keep Ross and Leanna up to date on the market.

Rodriguez: There were a lot of emails, correct?
Webb: Correct.
Rodriguez: Did anyone from the Cobb County Police Department ever contact you?
Webb: No.
Note: Stoddard testified at the Probable Cause hearing that the Harrises were having financial problems. In fact, it was one of the lead detective’s earliest motives for murder, but it was untrue. When asked about finances in the June 18th interview, Ross told him that he and Leanna had “near perfect credit, over 720 each of us.” A second search warrant executed on their home to inspect their mail for past-due notices or any sign of financial difficulties turned up nothing.

Rodriguez: Did you have to run a credit check to see if they’d be approved for a loan?
Webb: We had a pretty good idea that they’d be a solid buyer. We run credit background checks when we do leases and his credit score was superior. He had a clean background check, so we knew that, down the road, he’d be a vey solid buyer.
Webb 25:00

Shortly after the meeting with Roger Webb, Ross and Alex Hall had a March 2014 Google Chat about desirable areas to buy a home. Ross had posted to Alex, “If you pay for my son’s private school tuition, I will gladly live in Buckhead.”
Hall 47:00

Alex Hall identifies March chat

In May 2014, Ross, Leanna, and Cooper had joined Ross’s brother and his family for a trip to the beach.

Kilgore: Were there plans for a cruise?
Baygents: It first came up when we were at the Fort Walton Beach trip. We were talking about doing a family cruise – all our kids, my other nephew, my other sister-in-law, and Ross was like, “Yeah, let’s do it,” ya know. We even talked about our parents going also. We talked about it for probably the next few days or maybe a week or so, and he was really on me about it. I finally told him to look into it.  I wasn’t sure if we needed passports, but I ended up getting passports for my kids.
Baygents 1:00

Ross’s brother

On June 9, 2014 Ross initiated a group text with Leanna, his brother, and his brother’s wife to discuss plans for their vacation. Ross e-mailed Heather Coyle, a travel agent in Marietta, on June 17:  “Hey Heather, my family is looking to go on a cruise around mid-October. By family I mean 9 people, that includes Leanna, Cooper, and I, as well as my brother, his wife and 4 kids. Cooper is only a toddler, but I was hoping you could put a few things together to see what we’re all looking at. Any ideas?” A few more e-mails were exchanged, with the last being from Heather to Ross on the morning of the 18th, explaining options and prices.
Coyle 56:00

Heather Coyle

Kilgore: In the 28 months since Cooper Harris died, has anyone from the Cobb County Police Department ever contacted you?
Coyle: No.
Coyle 2:20

Kilgore: How long have you had that information about the e-mails between Ross and the travel agent on the 17th and 18th of June?
Stoddard: I don’t remember exactly when it was looked at, but it’s been awhile.
Kilgore: Well over two years?
Stoddard: Possibly.
Kilgore: Did you ever interview Heather Coyle?
Stoddard: No.
Kilgore: Did you have another detective interview her?
Stoddard: No.
Kilgore: Did you look her up or research her in any way?
Stoddard: No.

Stoddard 46:00

After the June 9th group text, Ross searched for information about Carnival Cruise Lines.
Boring: Were there any google searches on that day, June 9, about children cruising free?
Stoddard: I don’t recall.
Stoddard 52:00

He didn’t recall. So the defense questioned Stoddard further about Ross’s June 9th searches and showed him the the extraction report from Ross’s computer. An extraction report that the detectives had acquired at least two years ago.
Kilgore: What were the first three searches done?
Stoddard: 1) Carnival Cruise Lines Kids. 2) Carnival Cruise Lines Kids Policy 3) Do kids cruise free?
Kilgore: You certainly would agree that planning a cruise in the future with your son is inconsistent with a plan to murder him the next day.
Objection. Sustained.
Stoddard 34:00