“These babies suffered horribly and we owed them a thorough investigation,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said in a statement Tuesday. “I hope that while the sweltering weather is upon us, caregivers will be more vigilant for children in vehicles.”
Juan Rodriguez, 39, pleaded guilty to second-degree reckless recklessness charges by video and was sentenced to one-year conditional discharge, according to a statement from Clark’s office. A conditional discharge means that the defendant will not serve time in prison and the misdemeanor is eligible to be removed from his record after that period of time, as long as no other crime is committed.
Rodríguez drove to his job at the James J. Peters Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center on the morning of July 26, 2019, with his twins, Luna and Phoenix Rodríguez in the back seat, according to the statement. They were in the car unsupervised for about eight hours and reached a body temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
The first responders declared the twins dead at the scene, according to the statement.
Rodriguez said to the police something to the effect of “I assumed I had left them in the nursery before going to work. I was left blank. My babies are dead. I killed them,” according to the criminal complaint.
His attorney, Joey Jackson, said Rodriguez never intended to leave the children in the car. Unfortunately, he said, incidents like that occur across the country.
“Although it hurts more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband,” the twins’ mother said in a statement provided to CNN. “She is a good person and a great father, and I know that she would never have done anything to intentionally hurt our children.”
“I will never get over this loss and I know he will never forgive himself for this mistake.”
On average, heat stroke kills 38 children each year, according to the National Safety Council. These include cases where a child has been forgotten in a car, when they accidentally lock themselves in a car or trunk, or, in a small number of cases, when a child has been intentionally left in a car.
Julio has the highest number of heat stroke deaths, according to the NoHeatStroke.org. More than half of total deaths occur when parents forget about their child in the back seat, the organization said.
CNN’s Laura Ly, Amir Vera, Elizabeth Joseph and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.