What to Know
- The dad charged in deaths of his 1-year-old twins after he allegedly forgot them in the car had his case adjourned with no grand jury action
- Juan Rodriguez was originally charged with two counts of manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide, the NYPD said
- The Bronx district attorney's office opted not to present the case to a grand jury at this time; Rodriguez is due back in court Aug. 27
The family of 1-year-old twins who died after being forgotten in a hot car said one last goodbye to the toddlers at a service in Yonkers on Friday.
The funeral for Phoenix and Luna Rodriguez was held at Sinatra Memorial Home, where a large crowd — including friends, coworkers, babysitters and more — showed up to pay their respects to the family. The twins will be laid to rest just one day after a judge ruled there is no criminal case at this time against their father, Juan Rodriguez, who is accused of leaving the toddlers in a hot car for eight hours last week, killing both of them.
The family will hold a private ceremony Saturday involving the ashes of the twins, who were cremated.
Meanwhile, new City Council legislation will be introduced in an attempt to prevent tragedies such as this from happening again. Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera has drafted legislation that would require anyone driving in the city with a young child to utilize some type of technology that acts as a reminder when there is a child in the backseat.
Additionally, Cabrera is drafting legislation that would increase penalties for excessive window tinting.
Cabrera also plans on introducing resolutions to call on the state and federal government to pass legislation as well.
A spokeswoman for the Bronx district attorney's office said District Attorney Darcel Clark decided not to put the case against Rodriguez before a grand jury yet, citing the need for further investigation. That means the criminal case is still active, but the prosecution is paused. It's the latest stunning twist in the heartbreaking case, which defense attorneys have described as a horrific tragedy that was simply an accident.
Rodriguez had faced two counts of manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide in the death of his babies, whom he said he forgot in the car after "blanking out" when he went to work last week. The 39-year-old social worker sobbed in court when he initially pleaded not guilty to two counts -- and broke into tears -- and prayers -- yet again in court on Thursday.
Rodriguez's wife, who was among the first to come forward in his defense, sat behind her husband in the first row of the courtroom, holding their 3-year-old child. Juan Rodriguez also has 12- and 16-year-old children.
His attorney, Joey Jackson, said after the brief court hearing that the legal team was trying to explain to the Bronx district attorney that the twins' deaths was simply a horrendous tragedy. The surviving three children are crushed, Jackson said, adding he hoped Clark would "be fair" and dismiss the charges, ultimately concluding the twins' deaths were accidental.
Jackson also told reporters outside court Thursday that charges have been dropped in similar hot car deaths of unattended children around the country.
Citing the wave of hot car deaths sweeping the nation, Rodriguez's attorney said his client plans to dedicate his life to ensuring no similar tragedies happen again — to his or other families. He waived his right to a speedy trial so the investigation can continue; the case has been adjourned until Aug. 27.
Rodriguez had been out on bail since the devastating deaths of his twins.
According to a criminal complaint, Rodriguez told investigators "I blanked out, my babies are dead, I killed my babies."
The twins who had recently celebrated their first birthday were left in the car at an employee lot at Fordham Manor VA Hospital from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday, police said. Their bodies were 108 degrees when they were found, the medical examiner said.
The twin’s mother, Marissa Rodriguez, asked for privacy so the couple could "grieve, be strong, and be present for our other children."
Marissa, spoke out Sunday saying she was grieving, completely devastated and in disbelief.
"Though I am hurting more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband," she said in a statement. "He is a good person and great father and I know he would've never done anything to hurt our children intentionally."
There's an average of 38 heat-related deaths of children locked in cars nationwide per year, according to kidsandcars.org, a website that tracks the deaths. It says as of July 16, there had been 21 this year.