NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There is no criminal case as of yet against the father in the hot-car deaths of his 1-year-old twins, his attorney announced Thursday.
Juan Rodriguez, 39, of Rockland County, had been charged with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter following the deaths of his daughter, Luna, and son, Phoenix.
Rodriguez appeared in court Thursday morning.
Flanked by his family in a powerful show of support, and holding his 4-year-old son, Tristan, Juan Rodriguez arrived to face the charges.
Rodriguez kissed his wife Marissa as friends and family openly prayed for Rodriguez and his family, the souls of the deceased children.
In the courtroom, prosecutors announced there would be no grand jury action at this time so that they could take more time to investigate and evaluate the case.
Rodriguez has admitted to police that he left his two babies in his sweltering hot car while he was at work last week, saying he forgot they were in the back seat. After work, when he realized what he did, he called 911.
“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,” said Rodriguez’s attorney, Joey Jackson.
Jackson said Rodriguez has been completely remorseful and forthcoming. He is due back in court on Aug. 27.
“We’re appealing to [Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s] sense of justice to do what we believe to be the right thing and that is to dismiss these charges. We understand that they will continue to evaluate all aspects of this case and we will welcome their evaluation of that. And we believe that at the conclusion of them evaluating all the facts, all the evidence, and everything in this case they will come to the conclusion that this was a horrible tragedy,” Jackson said. “Everyone should be mindful of the fact that Mr. Rodriguez from day one in this case consented, he gave a full statement including the timeline and the history of how this happened…. he has nothing at all to harbor and hide other than to feel misery and sorrow about what happened in this case.”
Watch: Defense Attorney Joey Jackson Speaks After Court Appearance:
Luna and Phoenix will be laid to rest at a funeral on Friday.
In a statement, their attorney said the family is calling on New York lawmakers for new legislation requiring all vehicles be equipped with a device that alerts parents to the presence of their children, adding their were 52 similar deaths nationwide in 2018.
According to KidsAndCars.org, which tracks child heat stroke fatalities in cars:
- It’s rare for a parent to do jail time
- 45 percent of the time there are no charges
- 9 percent of the time there are charges there are no convictions
“We are hopeful that this is not prosecuted,” Jackson said.
Authorities said Rodriguez left the children in the backseat of his car last Friday and then went to work as a social worker at a VA hospital in the Bronx. Eight hours later, he found them unconscious and foaming at the mouth.
The distraught father pulled over and called 911, but it was too late.
Rodriguez, an Iraq War veteran, has three other children and had dropped his 4-year-old son off at day care, but apparently forgot to bring the twins to theirs.
“The vehicle had tinted windows, so it was almost impossible for anybody to notice that the children were there,” City Councilman Fernando Cabrera said.
His wife released a statement on Sunday, defending her heartbroken husband.
“Though I am hurting more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband. He is a good person and great father and I know he would’ve never done anything to hurt our children intentionally. I will never get over this loss and I know he will never forgive himself for this mistake,” it read in part.
More than 900 children have died in hot cars since 1990, according to Kidsandcars.org. The group recommends parents leave something valuable, like a purse or laptop, in the backseat as an additional reminder.