NEW YORK –Juan Rodriguez is living every parent’s worst nightmare. In the past 48 hours, his 1-year-old twins died after he forgot them in a car for eight hours in temperatures that reached unimaginable levels in the car and in the mid-80s outside.
The 39-year-old father was arrested and charged with two counts each of manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child, the New York Police Department said.
His attorney, Joey Jackson, told CNN when he went to see his client Saturday, he looked “inconsolable and beside himself.” Jackson is also a CNN analyst.
“The (Rodriguez) family is ripped apart,” Jackson said. “His mental state is very fragile based on what happened. It’s just an awful scenario.”
Rodriguez faces up to four years in prison for the criminal negligent homicide charge and up to 15 years for the manslaughter charge. He was arraigned Saturday and paid $50,000 on a $100,000 bond, according to a source with the Bronx Criminal Court Central Booking Clerk’s Office.
Rodriguez ‘never had any intention of this happening,’ attorney says
The twins, Mariza and Phoenix Rodriguez, were found unresponsive in the back seat of a Honda sedan in the Bronx, the NYPD said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
The New York City Medical Examiner will determine the twins’ cause of death, police said.
While the twins were in the car, their father was at work at a nearby VA hospital, officials said.
Jackson said his client “never had any intention of this happening — it’s so sad that this unfortunately happens all across the country. All too often we cover stories like this.”
“Fortunately he’s got a tremendous support network working with him — his family, his wife, his friends,” Jackson said. “He has five kids — now three — and everyone is just besides themselves.”
The district attorney’s office isn’t suggesting the incident was intentional, Jackson said, but they are saying it was reckless and negligent.
“The allegation is that he was he was extraordinarily careless,” Jackson said.
The legal plan for now is to make an appeal to the DA so that the situation is resolved in terms of justice and the family’s grief and pain, Jackson said.
“What do you do to the guy? Throw him in jail and take him from his family and remaining children again? What’s an appropriate resolution for this type of case?” Jackson said.
A judge asked that Rodriguez be put on suicide watch, Jackson said during a news conference Saturday evening. Rodriguez’s next court date is August 1, when a grand jury will decide whether or not to indict.
The ‘dad of all dads, father of all fathers’
Jackson said prior to being called to represent Rodriguez, the two didn’t know each other.
They do, however, share mutual friends who described Rodriguez as the “dad of all dads, father of all fathers,” Jackson said.
Rodriguez is a social worker at the hospital, his friend, Temple Barros, 41, told CNN.
“He’s always been an amazing father. Whatever they need, he’ll go out and get it,” Barros said.
He said the family has a “very bright” older daughter. The mother is “not believing what happened,” he said. “Their parenting is amazing. I’m at a loss.”
Hospital spokesman Jim Connell confirmed Rodriguez is an employee and offered this statement:
“The entire hospital community is saddened by news of this tragic event. While the situation is currently under the jurisdiction of local authorities, we offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family.”