NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A judge delayed taking further action on the father whose 1-year-old twins died after he left them in the back seat of his hot car.
The family of Juan Rodriguez, 39, of Rockland County, is going to have to wait a little bit longer to find out whether or not he will face criminal charges.
Web Extra: Juan Rodriguez’s Attorney Speaks Out After Court Appearance
In a court appearance on Tuesday, the judge did not move to convene a grand jury on potential charges, nor did the court move to dismiss the case.
Rodriguez had been charged with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter following the deaths of his daughter, Luna, and son, Phoenix.
The court appearance ended similarly to a recent court appearance. The Bronx District Attorney’s Office said it needs more time to investigate the case toward potentially two counts of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child before it brings it to a grand jury.
“I don’t begrudge the district attorney at all for dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s. There are two beautiful children who are gone,” defense attorney Joey Jackson told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes.
He is back in court on Sept 24. He had nothing to say to reporters as he walked into the courthouse Tuesday.
After the hearing, Jackson had a lot to share about the family’s state of mind.
“The family obviously is very wounded and deeply hurt, but they are not broken,” Jackson said.
Luna and Phoenix died after police said Rodriguez parked his car on July 26 and went to work at VA hospital in Kingsbridge Heights with the kids still inside.
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 until he found them dead hours later, foaming at the mouth. When he realized what he did, he called 911.
Rodriguez’s attorney told CBS2’s Christina Fan he was not at liberty to talk about their discussion with the DA. He did reveal details about the family’s new platform.
“In that hurt and in that pain, their hope is that they can make a difference. You know, since I appeared before you last with the family earlier this month, there have been 12 other instances throughout this country where children have died in cars. Now that speaks to an issue that this family recognizes,” Jackson said.
As the family waits to hear more about where the criminal case heads, they said they will be working with state legislators and starting a foundation to bring awareness to hot-car deaths. The family is calling for new legislation requiring all vehicles to be equipped with a device that alerts parents to the presence of their children.
“I am hopeful that they can wrap this up sooner rather than later. My client and his wonderful family need to move on. They need closure,” Jackson said, adding he hopes the charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide will be dropped.
Jackson said again that they welcome a full investigation and have cooperated fully, answering questions from investigators and handing over his cell phone records.
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
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 previously released a statement, 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.