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PayPal to refund donations sent to family of Georgia toddler who died in hot car

By Michael Pearson and Stephanie Gallman, CNN
updated 5:58 PM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • PayPal says it will refund donations to fundraising site for Cooper Harris' family
  • Another payment processor, WePay, has not yet said what it will do
  • It's unclear if any of the approximately $22,000 raised reached the family
  • Cooper's father, Justin Ross Harris, is charged with murder in his death

(CNN) -- If you donated to a fund-raising campaign for the family of Cooper Harris, the suburban Atlanta toddler who died after being left in a hot car, you may soon be getting a refund.

YouCaring.com, the site where the fundraising effort was hosted, has taken the campaign down, and a spokesman for one of the two payment processing firms used in the effort, PayPal, said Friday that it will refund all of the contributions it handled.

The second firm, WePay.com, did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on its plans for donations it collected.

Car bakes in Georgia sun for investigation into toddler's death

As of July 2, the effort had raised $22,677 of the $25,000 goal set by organizer Heather McCullar, according to a snapshot of the page maintained by Google. The page is no longer available on the YouCaring.com website.

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"The campaign was recently removed from the site so that the controversy and debate surrounding the Harris matter did not become a distraction to the millions of other donors participating in a wide variety of active fundraisers currently taking place in our community," the company said in a statement.

It was not immediately known how much each service had collected, or if any of the money had reached the Harris family.

On June 21, Alabama Credit Union posted a note to its Facebook page saying donations were being funneled to an account there "owned by Ms. Harris to use purely at her own discretion -- but she clearly understands the intent of those donating to the fund."

What's next in the case?

The campaign was established after Cooper's father, Justin Ross Harris, was charged with murder and child cruelty in the June 18 death of his 22-month-old son.

But it was posted before revelations that he had searched for information about hot-car deaths or bombshell allegations in a probable cause hearing last week that he had visited a website dedicated to a child-free lifestyle.

A detective also said Harris was exchanging sexually explicit text messages with various women while his son was locked inside the sweltering car, painting a much different portrait of Harris than the dedicated and doting family man described by friends and family.

Father apparently wrote 'I'm harmless' on social media profile

Harris has pleaded not guilty. In the preliminary hearing last week, Harris' attorney -- H. Maddox Kilgore -- said his client had tragically forgotten his child was in the car.

On Friday a second Georgia law enforcement agency said it is now inquiring about Justin Ross Harris' activities.

Woodstock Police Department has contacted Cobb County Police Department, "in regards to any alleged criminal activity within our jurisdiction," Public Information Officer Brittany Duncan said.

During the probable cause hearing, a detective with the Cobb County Police Department alleged Harris met one of the women with whom he exchanged explicit messages at Olde Rope Mill Park, in Woodstock.

"We have reached out to Cobb County and will coordinate with them on anything actionable," Duncan said. But at this point Woodstock Police say they don't have an active investigation.

During the probable cause hearing, July 3, Cobb County Police Sgt. Phil Stoddard testified that the department's preliminary investigation had revealed Harris had committed the computer-based crime of sexual exploitation of a minor. When asked if Harris had also committed two misdemeanor violations of illegal contact with a minor, sexually -- Stoddard agreed he had.

Calls to Harris' attorney, Maddox Kilgore, were not immediately returned.

Who is Justin Ross Harris?

CNN's Victor Blackwell and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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