For the first time since they died in a hot car more than three months ago, mom Marissa Rodriguez is opening up about the horrific day she learned her twin babies Luna and Phoenix were gone — found dead after being left in a New York City car by their veteran father, who believed he’d dropped them at day care.
Marissa recently sat down with Dr. Phil McGraw for an episode of his eponymous show, Dr. Phil, which airs Thursday, November 14.
Fighting back tears, she recalls the call she received from her husband, Iraq war vet Juan Rodriguez, on July 26 — the call that changed her life forever.
A clip from the emotional episode is featured on PEOPLE above.
“I was working,” Marissa begins. “The first call was at about 4 or so. He told me, ‘Alright, it’s your turn to pick up the kids.’ He was going to a military event. He generally brought the kids to day care but we switched off who picked them up. So I said, ‘No problem.’ I was still working for another hour at least.”
After phoning a client, Marissa said her 39-year-old husband called her again.
“I kind of just ignored it because I was working,” she tells Dr. Phil. “I realized he left me a voicemail which he doesn’t normally do. He called again, so I said, ‘Okay, it’s important.’ I got off the phone [with my client] … I heard him say they were gone.”
The grieving dad is also featured in the clip, but does not speak.
Juan Rodriguez has been charged and arraigned in connection with the deaths of the couple’s 1-year-old twins Luna and Phoenix. However, the case has not been presented to a grand jury for indictment, and prosecutors are still mulling whether they should pursue one against him.
In August, Bronx District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Patrice O’Shaughnessy told PEOPLE prosecutors have until late December to present a case to a grand jury, who could move to indict Juan.
“We are not presenting to a grand jury at this time,” O’Shaughnessy said to PEOPLE at the time. “We still need to conduct the investigation. We have to make sure that we know all the facts and everything that happened.”
Juan, a social worker at the James J. Peters VA Hospital in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, spent the day working before returning to his car. He had already started driving and was two blocks from work when he saw his kids in their car seats in his rearview mirror.
He is out on bond.
He pulled over, according to an NYPD source, and found the twins unresponsive — foaming at the mouth.
“I blanked out,” Juan told police who responded to the scene. “My babies are dead. I killed my babies.”
He has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child.
During her exclusive interview with Dr. Phil, Marissa also explains why she is standing by her husband in the wake of their loss, and reveals what she wants other parents to learn from this tragic tale.
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Dr. Phil‘s segment with the grieving mother airs Thursday. Check local listings for air times.
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