Days after her husband was charged with manslaughter and criminal negligent homicide, the mother of twins found dead in a hot car last week is speaking out and pleading for privacy. In a statement released by her lawyer, as CBS News reported, Marissa Rodriguez said that although she is "completely devastated," she did not believe her husband would have ever done anything to hurt their children intentionally. Marissa's husband, Juan was charged with the children's deaths on Saturday after he reportedly said he'd accidentally left the twins in his car for at least eight hours.
"Though I am hurting more than I ever imagined possible, I still love my husband," Marissa said in a statement released by her lawyer, according to CBS News. "He is a good person and great father and I know he would've never done anything to hurt our children intentionally."
According to ABC News, Juan told police he thought he'd dropped the twins off at their day care before he'd reported to work. It wasn't until his drive home some eight hours later that he spotted the two children sitting lifeless in their car seats and called police. "I assumed I dropped them off at daycare before I went to work," Juan reportedly told responding officers, according to court documents obtained by CNN and ABC News. "I blanked out. My babies are dead; I killed my babies."
Juan was charged with two counts each of manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide, and endangering the welfare of a child and faces up to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter charges alone, according to CNN. He's plead not guilty to all charges.
In the statement released Sunday, Marissa described the tragic incident as "a horrific accident" and said she needed her husband by her side so they could "go through this together."
"I will never get over this loss and I know he will never forgive himself for this mistake," her statement read. "Luna and Phoenix will always live in our hearts and memories and we are working hard to come to terms with what has happened."
In her statement released to CBS News, Marissa described her current situation as her "absolute worst nightmare," adding that, "Everything I do reminds me of my sweet, intelligent, beautiful babies and I am still in disbelief."
On average, 38 children are killed each year from heat-related deaths suffered as a result of being trapped inside a vehicle, according to the advocacy group Kids and Cars. The group's records show that 23 children have died as a result of being left in vehicles so far this year. In 2018, however, 52 children died after being left in vehicles.
While most parents likely think they'd never forget their child, a study published earlier this year by psychologist David Diamond found that even the most attentive parent can unknowingly lose awareness of a child's presence when they're quiet or sleeping in the backseat. According to Diamond, various factors such as sleep deprivation and high anxiety or stress levels (both of which can be common for parents) can impair cognitive function and put people into "autopilot" mode. Additionally, Diamond found that such factors can also spur the creation of false memories and lead to a failure in an individual's prospective memory, a section of the brain responsible for remembering to execute a plan like say, dropping a child of at day care.
Meaning even the most cognizant parent might benefit from any one of the new apps and products aimed at reminding drivers there's a child in the backseat. Baby Alert International’s ChildMinder SoftClip, for example, clips into a car seat and can be used with either a smartphone app or key fob to alert parents when they've walked more than 15 feet from the still-clipped in child. Similarly, the Cybex Sirona M Sensorsafe 2.0 Convertible Car Seat can alert drivers when they've left the child behind in the car, when temperatures in the backseat reach unsafe levels, and when a child has unbuckled themselves.
Although many of these monitoring devices may come with a hefty price tag, they may be an investment that helps prevent a tragedy. Other, more low-cost options, like placing a mirror in the back seat that allows you to easily see into a rear-facing car seat or habitually keeping your purse or briefcase in the backseat rather than the passenger seat, may also help remind parents operating on "autopilot" of a child's presence, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.