A New York City father who says he forgot his 1-year-old twins in a hot car, believing he had dropped them at day care, called his wife later that day asking her to pick up the kids, according to an NYPD source.
But at that point, the children were already dead, the source says.
Juan Rodriguez, 39, called his wife as he was leaving his job as a social worker at the James J. Peters VA Hospital in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx Friday afternoon, the source says. After he began driving his car and saw his kids in their car seats in his rearview mirror, he was overcome with horror and grief, according to the source.
“This man made a terrible mistake,” the source says. “He thought his kids were in day care but didn’t realize they were in the backseat until he glanced at his rearview.”
According to the source, Rodriguez realized the children’s car seats were there. Typically, he’d drop his children — son Phoenix and daughter Luna — off still strapped in their car seats.
Rodriguez pulled over, according to the source, and found the twins unresponsive — foaming at the mouth.
“I blanked out,” Rodriguez told police who responded to the scene. “My babies are dead. I killed my babies.”
Rodriguez, an Iraq war veteran, was released Saturday after posting $100,000 bail.
He has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child.
The source says that before forgetting about the twins, Rodriguez had dropped off his 4-year-old son at a separate day care.
“It’s truly sad,” the source adds. “I genuinely feel for this guy. Imagine what he must be going through.”
Rodriguez’s wife spoke out about her husband and the incident in a statement shared to PEOPLE by Rodriguez’s lawyer, Joey Jackson.
“This is my absolute worst nightmare. Everything I do reminds me of my sweet, intelligent, beautiful babies and I am still in disbelief. Though I am hurting more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband,” Marissa Rodriguez said.
“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. This was a horrific accident, and I need him by my side to go through this together,” she continued.
“Luna and Phoenix will always live in our hearts and memories and we are working hard to come to terms with what has happened. We need to grieve, be strong, and be present for our other children. We ask that you respect our privacy during this most difficult time,” she concluded.
The twins were inside the car for hours, according to the source.
The children, who turned 1 on July 9, had an internal temperature of 108 degrees when coroners examined their bodies at the scene.
The Medical Examiner’s office is still working to determine the cause of death while the investigation remains ongoing.
Rodriguez could not be reached for comment.
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