A social worker who accidentally left his one year-old twin daughters to die in a roasting car has avoided jail. Juan Rodriguez, 40, was handed a one year-conditional discharge on Tuesday, 11 months after the July 2019 deaths of his daughters Luna and Phoenix in the Bronx, New York.
Announcing the sentence, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who prosecuted Rodriguez, said: ‘The children were strapped in their car seats throughout the hot summer day, with no windows open. These babies suffered horribly.’
District Attorney Clark also explained the decision not to jail Rodriguez, saying: ‘This was a tragic, unfortunate incident. I hope that as the sweltering weather is upon us, caregivers will be extra vigilant about children in vehicles.’
Rodriguez drove to work on the morning of his daughter’s deaths, then left them in the car after forgetting to drop them at their day care in Yonkers after ‘blanking out.’ Temperatures inside the vehicle that day reached 100f (37.7c), with the twins running a temperature of 108f (42.2c) after their dad left work eight hours later, drove two blocks and realized they were unresponsive in the back seat.
He immediately called 911, and sobbed while telling emergency responders: ‘I killed my babies.’
Rodriguez’s wife Marissa also indicated her support for her husband at his first court appearance last July. She said: ‘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.’
Her husband – an Iraq war veteran – was described as an ‘amazing dad’ who was devoted to his children.
Rodriguez struck a plea deal which saw him admit second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor charge. Prosecutors had originally considered a manslaughter charge, but offered the dad the deal because of his transparency and willingness to cooperate.
Rodriguez and his wife, who have three surviving children, now plan to become safety campaigners in a bid to avoid other families suffering the same tragedy that befell theirs.
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