CrimeJuan Rodriguez, dad of twins who died in hot car, appears in court
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The attorney for the New City man facing homicide charges for leaving his 1-year-old twins strapped into car seats in the back of his car on an 80-plus degree day.
Attorney Joey Jackson told reporters after a court hearing Tuesday thathave plans to start a foundation to highlight “an epidemic” of deaths among children left behind by parents who forgot they were there.
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Rodriguez was accompanied to court Tuesday by his wife, Marissa, his three children — ages 4, 12, and 16 — and family and friends who filled rows on one side of the courtroom. Rodriguez held his 4-year-old son in his lap while he waited for the case to be called.
His attorney said dismissing the case against Rodriguez could help raise awareness for the disturbing phenomenon.
Hot car deaths:
“I think the message it will send is that Mr. Rodriguez at no time had any intention to harm his beautiful babies,” Jackson said. “I think the message it will send is that there is an epidemic in this country where children are dying in the back of cars when they’re hot.”
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Bronx prosecutors told a judge Tuesday they’re continuing to investigate the circumstances leading up to the July 26 deaths of Luna and Phoenix Rodriguez.
Jackson said the case has yet to go before a grand jury, which would decide whether to issue an indictment. Both sides are due back in court Sept. 24.
Rodriguez has been cooperating with prosecutors, by turning over text messages and giving a full statement about events leading up to the moment he found his children dead in the backseat of his Honda, Jackson said.
“After that investigation takes place we will have deep discussions about what should happen moving forward,” Jackson said. “It is my hope that those discussions will include the dismissal of this case.”
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Rodriguez, 39, is facing charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child.
Rodriguez spent July 26 at work believing he’d dropped the twins at a daycare center in Yonkers that morning, according to a criminal complaint.
He discovered their lifeless bodies around 4 p.m. when he left work at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, according to the complaint.
Police say the twins had been in the car more than eight hours while temperatures outside climbed into the high 80s. Their body temperatures reached 108 degrees.
"I blanked out," Rodriguez told police, according to a criminal complaint. "My babies are dead. I killed my babies."
After court, Rodriquez, an Iraq War veteran who serves in the National Guard, stood with his family behind Jackson as the lawyer addressed reporters.
His wife, in a statement issued earlier this month, expressed support for her husband.
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"He is a good person and great father and I know he would've never done anything to hurt our children intentionally," Marissa Rodriguez said. "I will never get over this loss and I know he will never forgive himself for this mistake."
Jackson said he’s talked with state lawmakers about legislation to prevent more such deaths from occurring.
One measure would require alert systems be installed in cars to let drivers know a child is in the backseat.
A bill in Congress would require new cars to be equipped with alert systems that remind drivers if a child is left alone in the backseat. The HOT CARS Act acronym stands for Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats.
There have been 800 so-called hot-car deaths since 1998, when car safety advocates began recommending back-facing car seats for infants and toddlers. The recommendation coincided with the mandatory use of front-seat passenger airbags in cars, which some consider a danger to youngsters.
In May, a 21-month-old girl died after she'd been left alone for 2 1/2 hours while strapped into a car seat in the back of a car parked outside a home in Lakewood, New Jersey. The girl's mother was charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
to identify a phenomenon among parents of young children who believe their child is safe only to realize they've left them behind, sometimes with fatal consequences.
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Research has shown that about a quarter of parents of children under the age of 3 have at some point forgotten their child was in the car with them. Typically, parents can be jolted into remembering by a visual cue like a diaper bag or a baby's cry.
But, these experts say, a small change in routine like a traffic backup can trigger Forgotten Baby Syndrome.
On the day of the twins' death, Rodriguez dropped his 4-year-old son at daycare before heading for Yonkers, where he would usually drop the twins at a daycare center near where his wife worked.
But family members say Rodriguez was forced to take an alternate route to the twins' daycare center because of construction.
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This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News:
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Father Of Twins Killed In Hot Car Appears Outside Court
Juan Rodriguez, 39, of Rockland County, faced charges in the hot car deaths of his 1-year-old twins returned to court today.
Bronx father in court after twins' hot car death
TWINS' DAD IN COURT: A father appears in a Bronx courthouse to answer to charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter after admitting to ...