Man who 'forgot' his twins in hot car in NY described as an ‘amazing father' who was always there for his children: 'This was a horrible mistake'
Juan Rodriguez forgot to drop the children off at their daycare on Friday morning. He informed authorities that he did not realize that the twins Luna and Phoenix were still in the back seat when he parked at the Bronx hospital where he's a social worker, court papers reveal.
BRONX, NEW YORK: Juan Rodriguez was a doting father to his year-old twin son and daughter Luan and Phoenix. He set up a bouncy castle in their yard for their recent first birthday party and dressed them in their cutest outfits while his wife cooked breakfast in their Rockland County split-level.
On July 27, however, 39-year Rodriguez was hauled before a judge charged with the babies' deaths after they were left in a car for over eight hours on Friday, July 26.
Rodriguez forgot to drop the children off at their daycare on Friday morning. He informed authorities that he did not realize that the twins Luna and Phoenix were still in the back seat when he parked at the Bronx hospital where he's a social worker, court papers reveal.
Eight hours later, the twins registered an internal temperature of 108 degrees when the coroners examined their bodies in their car seats. At the scene, Rodriguez informed cops, "I assumed I dropped them off at daycare before I went to work," according to the criminal complaint against him.
"I blanked out!" he cried. "My babies are dead! I killed my babies!"
At his arraignment on Saturday, July 27 night before Bronx Criminal Court Justice Patsy Goldborne, he was still sobbing. A disabled Irag war veteran, he was wearing the same turquoise blue polo shirt he'd worn on Friday when he went to work on Friday as he cared for homeless and ailing vets at his job at a VA hospital in Kingsbridge; apparently unaware of the fact that the back seat of his Honda Accord in the parking lot was becoming a death trap for his own children.
"He carried on with his day," Assistant District Attorney Jaime Breslin told the judge. “He forgot his children in the seats.”
"This is a tragedy of horrific proportions," his lawyer, Joey Jackson, told the judge, who set bail at $100,000.
Two hours later, Rodriguez made bail and was released to his family. He with his wife and mother of the twins Marissa when he was released. The mother had gotten the couple's surviving child, a four-year-old boy.
Officials say that Rodriguez dropped the boy off at a different daycare before forgetting the twin babies. In the court, the mother broke into loud, hysterical sobs. At another point, Cathelina Valerio, cried out, "Mis nietos! Mis nietos!" — my grandchildren. "Do you know what I'm scared of?" she told The Post. "When he gets out, he can’t handle it. He’s going to need help."
The tragedy is further complicated by Rodriguez's reputation as a caring father.
"This is a horrible mistake," 45-year-old neighbor Tony Caterino, said of Rodriguez. "That one time you make a mistake, and you have to live with it for the rest of your life."
Rodriguez had driven to work on Friday morning as usual from his home in New City, a middle-class, heavily wooded suburb, which is an hour's drive north of the city.
Video shows it was 8.22 am when he parked in the hospital parking lot, according to police sources. The video shows him returning at one minute before 4 pm.
Rodriguez started the car and drive northwards toward his home – he pulled over ten minutes later, while he was still in The Bronx, on Kingsbridge Terrace. "I left them in the car!" he started screaming. Witnesses called 911, but upon arrival, medics could not revive the babies and they were pronounced dead at the scene.
41-year-old family friend Temple Barros who lives with the family said that the father used to take the twins to daycare in the mornings, where they stayed throughout the day, as Marissa, Rodriguez's wife worked as a tourism and travel sales manager at the Empire City Casino.
While Barros didn't see Rodriguez and the twins leave the house on Friday, he says it would have been the father and not the mother who put the children in the car.
"An amazing guy," he said. "He's always been there for his kids. Always. This is just a horrible situation. The family isn’t doing so well," he added. Rodriguez was"always doing things with the kids," Caterino, the neighbor, said. "Always in the yard playing. They had a big camp-out last weekend, with tents in the back yard. "He would always play catch or basketball with his older kids," Caterino said of Rodriguez’s two older sons from a prior marriage.
“I just can’t wrap my head around it,” said another neighbor, 39-year-old Paul Barlett. “No one here can believe it.”