Father charged in deaths of one-year-old twins left in hot car

Police officers investigate an area in the Bronx where two infants were found dead in a car on Friday, July 26, 2019.
Police officers investigate an area in the Bronx where two infants were found dead in a car on Friday, July 26, 2019.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The father of one-year-old twins who died after police said he left them in a hot car has been charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The father, Juan Rodriguez, 39, of New City, New York, was arrested and charged late on Friday (July 26), police said.

He left the children inside a parked silver Honda Accord that morning in the Bronx and reported for his job at the James J. Peters VA Medical Centre, officials said.

It was unclear why he had left the babies, a boy and a girl, alone in the car.

Hours later, Rodriguez left his job, got in the car and drove a short distance before realising they were inside, police said.

He jumped out and screamed.

A passerby called police. When officers arrived, they discovered that the infants, identified as Mariza and Phoenix Rodriguez, were dead.

In New City in Rockland County, about an hour north of New York City, neighbours said they found the circumstances surrounding the infants' deaths incomprehensible and difficult to square with their knowledge of Rodriguez as a caring father.

They recalled the family celebrating a birthday party this month. Neighbours described the Rodriguez family as attentive to their children.

"We noticed how caring and loving a family they were and are," said Galit Maayani, 45, who lives next door.

She said the family had moved in about five years ago, and had one older boy.

"I couldn't imagine what they are going through," Maayani said as she placed her hands on her temples.

"That's the biggest punishment a parent can endure. It's a sad freak accident. People make mistakes, and it's a huge one."

The Rodriguez family home, a two-storey brown house, has a large fenced backyard with a set of swings and three yellow slides. A sign that says "Slow Down Look Up" was staked in the grass beside the mailbox.

It was not immediately clear on Saturday if Rodriguez had a lawyer.

No one answered at the home.