Father returns to court in twins' hot car deaths

MELROSE, The Bronx (WABC) -- A father whose young twins died after being left in a sweltering car returned to court for a third appearance Tuesday.

Juan Rodriguez, 39, faced several charges, including manslaughter, after police said he left his 1-year-old twins inside his car for eight hours in late July, telling investigators he forgot to drop the babies off at daycare when he went to work.

There still has not been any grand jury action, but Rodriguez's defense attorney and the Bronx District Attorney's Office are in the midst of lengthy wide-ranging discussions about the case.

Defense attorneys maintain that this was an accident -- and not a crime -- and they're working to prevent this case from going to the grand jury. They were very clear to say that they are not working on any type of plea deal because there is no admission of guilt terms of a crime.

"We do not believe, based upon Mr. Rodriguez's actions, based upon his life history, based upon his family, based on his relationship, based on all he's done, that this is a crime at all," said defense attorney Joey Jackson during a press conference after his client briefly appeared before a criminal court judge.

Rodriguez previously appeared in court August 1 for a hearing to determine whether or not a grand jury had proceeded on charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter.

The Bronx DA decided not to put it before a grand jury at that time, pending further investigation. This meant that prosecutors were effectively pausing the prosecution, but the criminal case is still active.

That same thing happened in late August, and the defense did not object to the adjournment before holding a news conference maintaining Rodriguez's innocence.

The next court date is October 24.

Rodriguez, from New City in Rockland County, admitted to police that he left his twin babies in the car for hours on July 26.

He told police he dropped off his 4-year-old son Tristan at a Westchester daycare but forgot that his 1-year-old twins, Luna and Phoenix, were in their rear-facing car seats

Rodriguez told police he then drove to work at the VA Medical Center in the Bronx around 8 a.m. and parked his car with the twins inside.

He said he returned to his car eight hours later and started to drive away, according to police. He drove for two blocks before discovering the children, foaming at the mouth and lifeless.

Police said he pulled over and screamed for help. Rodriguez was charged the next day.

Rodriguez is a licensed clinical social worker and an Army veteran who served in Iraq.

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