Criminal case put on hold against father involved in twins' hot car deaths in the Bronx, attorney says

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Thursday, August 1, 2019
Criminal case put on hold against father involved in twins' hot car deaths in the Bronx, attorney says
Stacey Sager reports on the criminal case against a father involved in his twins' hot car deaths.

KINGSBRIDGE, Bronx -- A criminal case was put on hold until the end of the month against the father who said he forgot about his twin babies, left them in a sweltering car, and returned from work to find them dead, his attorney said.

Juan Rodriguez appeared in a Bronx courthouse on Thursday morning for a hearing to determine whether or not a grand jury had proceeded on charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter.

The defense attorney spoke out following the court appearance.

The Bronx district attorney has decided not to put it before a grand jury at this time, pending further investigation. This means that prosecutors are effectively pausing the prosecution, but the criminal case is still active.

"We are speaking to the district attorney's office to convey to them what I think that they know and understand -- that this was a horrific and terrible tragedy," Rodriguez's attorney Joey Jackson said outside of court.

As he spoke, Rodriguez clutched his 4-year-old son with his supportive wife, Marissa, at his side.

The next court date is August 27.

Rodriguez, from New City, Rockland County, admitted to police that he left his twin babies in the car for hours on July 26, a sweltering hot day.

The 39-year-old father told police he dropped off his four-year-old son Tristan at a Westchester day care but forgot his one-year-old twins, Luna and Phoenix Rodriguez, were in their rear-facing car seats

Rodriguez told police he then drove to work at the VA Medical Center in the Bronx around 8:00 a.m. and parked his car, with twins inside.

He said he returned to his car eight hours later and started to drive away, according to police. He drove for two blocks before discovering the children, foaming at the mouth and lifeless.

Police said he pulled over and screamed for help.

Rodriguez was charged the next day.

Rodriguez cried throughout his Saturday arraignment, but when his attorney mentioned the twins, he started sobbing and shaking.

"My client is heartbroken," said attorney Joey Jackson. "He certainly understands the gravity of what occurred. His family understands the gravity of what occurred. They are strong, they are resilient, and they will get through this very difficult and trying time."

He was released on $100,000 bail.

Rodriguez is a licensed clinical social worker and an Army Veteran who served in Iraq.

Mourners placed flowers, candles and stuffed animals close to where the car had been parked in the Bronx. A GoFundMe page for funeral expenses has now raised more than $93,000. A wake for the twins is scheduled for Friday.

In 2018 alone, a record 52 children died in hot cars nationwide. Parents are prosecuted on a case-by-case basis.

"Mr. Rodriguez and his family will certainly be dedicating their life to the cause of ensuring that this does not happen to anyone else again," Jackson said Thursday.


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