A judge ruled there is no criminal case at this time against the New York City father accused of leaving his 1-year-old twins in a hot car for eight hours last week, killing both of them, a spokeswoman for the Bronx district attorney's office said Thursday.
The spokeswoman said District Attorney Darcel Clark decided not to put the case before a grand jury yet, citing the need for further investigation. That means the criminal case against Juan Rodriguez 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.
Meanwhile, the babies will be mourned at a funeral service Friday. The Bronx district attorney's office released no immediate statement on the development.
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, Phoenix and Luna, 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.