Family out of Farmingdale house where toddler was buried

Robert Rodriguez, a "person of interest" in the death of his girlfriend's 17-month-old son, has moved his belongings out of his Farmingdale home but remains on Long Island as police await autopsy reports, his attorney said. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Oct. 9, 2012)

Robert Rodriguez, the Farmingdale man who is "a person of interest" in the death of his girlfriend's 17-month-old son, has moved his belongings out of the home where the boy was found buried in the backyard. But he remains on Long Island as police await autopsy results, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The locks have already been changed on the Hallock Street residence where State Police last week found Justin Kowalczik in a backyard grave. Rodriguez, the boy's mother, Heather Kowalczik, 29, and their two children were evicted by the landlord after the discovery.

"At this time, my understanding is the police consider him a person of interest," said Rodriguez's lawyer, Byron Divins of Garden City, who removed his client's clothing from the home Tuesday. "But they have not held him in custody and he's not answering any questions at this time."

He said police had not tried to contact Rodriguez since Friday, when police questioned him in connection with an Amber Alert for his son Robert Jr., 9, who did not show up for school. He was later found unharmed. Since then, police have not asked Rodriguez to limit his travel, Divins said, but his client chose to stay somewhere on Long Island.

Divins said Rodriguez broke up with Kowalczik five years ago, but they continued to live together and Rodriguez denies that he abused her or the children. Asked if his client knew Justin, who died about two years ago, he said, "I do not know if he's ever met the boy or not."

He said Rodriguez is "doing as well as you can imagine. . . . He's got to continue with his life and living, and so he needed a change of clothes and he needed to keep going."

Tuesday, landlord Luigi Lancia was packing and throwing out what was left in house, saying he evicted the family because he's upset that a dead child was buried in his backyard. "I don't even want to walk back there," he said. Lancia said the couple never mentioned a third child and he never saw one.

State Police said they are waiting for results from the medical examiner's office as detectives investigate the death and burial.

"A lot of it hinges on what the [forensic] anthropologist says," said Lt. William Hulse of the State Police, adding that while the case does not rest solely on the medical examiner's ruling, "The M.E. is definitely going to help us." Forensic anthropologists are brought in on cases involving bodies unearthed after long periods of time.

The investigation began last week after Kowalczik led state investigators to Justin's unmarked grave near a back fence. Authorities questioned her about the child's whereabouts after an earlier call to Suffolk County Child Protective Services about the health of one of her two other sons.

A Suffolk Social Services spokesman said he could not comment on any CPS case due to state law and the ongoing police investigation.

Kowalczik, Rodriguez, Robert Jr. and Alex, 6, originally lived in Orange County and moved about two years ago to Farmingdale. Neighbors on Long Island have said they never saw a third child in the household.

With Joseph Mallia

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Follow Newsday on social media

advertisement | advertise on newsday