THE BRONX — The Rockland County father of 1-year-old twins who died after being left in a hot car has pleaded guilty on two counts of reckless endangerment, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
As a result, Juan Rodriguez has been sentenced to a 1-year conditional discharge, according to DA Darcel D. Clark.
Rodriguez’s twins, Luna and Phoenix, were found unresponsive in the back seat of a Honda sedan in the Bronx on July 26, 2019. Rodriguez went to work at 8 a.m. that day at a Veterans Affairs hospital, where he was a social worker, and forgot the babies in the car, sources said. He returned to the car at 4 p.m., drove a short distance and noticed the babies.
He was later taken into custody.
“The defendant, Juan Rodriguez, left his 1-year-old twins in the backseat of his car for hours while he went to work,” said Clark. The children were strapped in their car seats throughout the hot summer day, with no windows open. These babies suffered horribly and we owed them a thorough investigation.”
Clark concluded that Rodriguez did not act maliciously.
“This was a tragic, unfortunate incident,” he said.
According to PIX11 News’ Mary Murphy, Rodriguez was talking to his wife on the phone as he left the VA Hospital that day.
“He made a phone call as he was leaving the hospital,” a law enforcement source told PIX11 News, “asking his wife to pick up the kids at day care. He was supposed to pick up a uniform for his reserve duty. He truly believed they were at the day care.”
When the 39-year-old dad made the left turn out of the hospital parking lot onto Kingsbridge Road, he drove two blocks and that’s when “he saw the seats in the back,” according to the source.
The car seats were “rear facing.”
Rodriguez normally would have carried his 1-year-old son, Phoenix, and daughter, Luna, in their car seats into the day care.
He instantly realized he had made a terrible mistake. The father jumped out of the car, finding the lifeless bodies of Phoenix and Luna, foaming at the mouth and still strapped in their car seats.
“I blanked out,” Rodriguez screamed on the street, as nearby pedestrians called 911. “I killed my babies.”
“They were dead for quite some time, at that point,” the source said. It was later revealed the internal body temperature of both babies was 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rodriguez was initially arraigned on charges of manslaughter, negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the New York City Police Department. He pleaded not guilty, said Patrice O’Shaughnessy, a spokeswoman for the Bronx District Attorney.
Rodriguez’s wife and the twins’ mother, in a statement back in August, said that the deaths were “a horrific incident,” and that she needs Rodriguez “by my side to go through this together.”
“Though I am hurting more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband,” she said. “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.”
This is a developing story.