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Father relinquishes custody of sons amid probe

The attorney and another man remove personal effects

The attorney and another man remove personal effects after Robert Rodriguez and Heather Kowalczik's eviction from the house on Hallock Street in East Farmingdale., where a body of a toddler was found buried in the backyard. (Oct. 9, 2012) Credit: Jim Staubitser

The Farmingdale man police considered "a person of interest" in the investigation into the death of his girlfriend's 17-month-old son has agreed to give temporary custody of his two sons to the government.

At a hearing before Suffolk Family Court Judge David Freundlich in Central Islip on Tuesday, Robert Rodriguez agreed to let his sons -- Robert Jr., 9, and Alex, 6 -- live with a foster family, said his attorney, Byron Divins of Garden City.

"My client loves his boys and he wants custody of the boys," Divins said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the attorney said, Rodriguez was fired from his job at P.C. Richard & Son in Greenvale and he was evicted from the Hallock Street home where he had lived with his sons and their mother, Heather Kowalczik. Without a job or a permanent place to live, Divins said his client thought it was best for now to let someone else care for his boys.

"It's not in his children's best interest to live with him," Divins said.

Suffolk County Child Protective Services last week initiated a neglect proceeding against Rodriguez, 30, and his girlfriend, Kowalczik, 29, also from Farmingdale, alleging that the couple failed to adequately care for Alex.

That probe led police to find a toddler's body, believed to be Kowalczik's 17-month-old son, Justin, who was never reported missing. The Suffolk medical examiner's office will determine a cause of death from the remains that were buried in the couple's backyard.

Divins, who accompanied Rodriguez to the court hearing, said Kowalczik was not there. Kowalczik has reportedly returned to Orange County, where her family lives.

The court appointed Diane Somberg, of the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, to represent the boys. She, through her secretary, declined to comment Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Divins said Rodriguez was driven from his temporary home on Tuesday and has relocated to an undisclosed location on Long Island.

"People were banging on his door, yelling and screaming," Divins said. "I don't know what, if anything, was actually said. I know my client was fearful for his life."

Divins said Rodriguez's father, Edward Rodriguez, of Spring Hill, Fla., an hour from Tampa, flew to New York over the weekend to support his son. Divins said Edward Rodriguez has paid for a team of armed security guards to protect his son.

Before Robert Rodriguez moved to Farmingdale with Kowalczik and their sons in July 2010, he lived alone in Commack, Divins said. The boys and Kowalczik lived in upstate Middletown. From 2003 to 2007, Divins said his client was living with his father in Spring Hill, Fla., while getting treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma.

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