A father has been charged with manslaughter after he said he accidentally left his 1-year-old twins in the back of his car while at work in New York City, leading to their deaths.
Juan Rodriguez, 39, visibly sobbed as he pleaded not guilty in a Bronx courtroom on Saturday to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
His court appearance came one day after his twins were found lifeless while strapped in their rear-facing car seats as he left work on Friday around 4 p.m., local station CBS 2 News reported.
CBS News Juan Rodriguez, 39, pleaded not guilty in court on Saturday to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Rodriguez, who’s identified as a licensed clinical social worker and Iraq War veteran, had just completed an eight-hour shift at James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx.
“I assumed I dropped them off at daycare before I went to work,” Rodriguez told police officers who arrived on the scene, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. “I blanked out. My babies are dead; I killed my babies.”
The infants’ body temperatures measured 108 degrees, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Temperatures in the city on Friday were over 85 degrees.
BREAKING: NYPD: infant twins found dead in car, father left work and two blocks away realized found the children in the car, pulled over and screamed for help, police blocking kingsbridge rd, @ABC7NYNewsDesk @ABC7NY pic.twitter.com/3P4xDBjAMi
— Naveen Dhaliwal (@NaveenABC7) July 26, 2019
CBS reported that Rodriguez has three other children, ages 16, 12 and 4. He did remember to drop off his 4-year-old at day care that morning.
The criminal charge of negligent homicide carries a maximum of four years in prison while the manslaughter charge carries up to 15 years, Rodriguez’s attorney, Joey Jackson, told CNN.
“This was just a horrible mistake,” Rodriguez’s neighbor, Tony Caterino, 45, told the New York Post. “That one time you make a mistake, and you have to live with it for the rest of your life.”
CBS News The infants were found lifeless in the back seat of the father’s car in the Bronx on Friday, authorities said.
A family friend who lives with the Rodriguez family described him to the Post as “an amazing guy.”
“He’s always been there for his kids. Always. This is just a horrible situation,” said Temple Barros, 41. “The family isn’t doing so well.”
There have been 23 deaths of children left in hot cars so far this year. The annual national average is 38 deaths ― or one every nine days ― though 2018 saw a record-setting 52 deaths, according to the nonprofit Kids And Cars.
“In over 55% of these cases, the person responsible for the child’s death unknowingly left them in the vehicle,” a website for the children’s safety organization states.