Mother of drowned autistic boy, 9, charged with murder after video shows her pushing him into Miami canal
A Florida woman, who initially told police her 9-year-old autistic son was abducted, is now facing a murder charge in connection with his death. Following hours of questioning by authorities, 47-year-old Patricia Ripley of West Kendall confessed to her son's murder and was booked into a Miami-Dade County jail early Saturday, May 23, the Miami-Herald reported. According to the report, Ripley's arrest came shortly after her son, Alejandro, was found dead in a canal at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club on Friday.
The shocking details of her confession emerged after she eventually admitted she was to blame for the child’s death at a canal and “he’s going to be in a better place” police said. On Thursday night, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) issued an Amber Alert for Alejandro after he was said to be kidnapped from the parking lot of a Southwest Miami-Dade Home Depot. Officers responded to the scene along the 15750 block of Southwest 88th Street around 9 pm on May 21. A store employee told WSVN he heard the abductors allegedly crashed into the mother's car before taking off with the child.
“I saw the police, so I tried to ask somebody, and they told me they kidnapped a kid,” he said at the time on condition of anonymity. “They took objects from the mother, and it’s really impressive how you see these things happen in Miami because you don’t expect somebody to get kidnapped here in Miami, so it’s very frustrating to think that happens here.” Ripley told police that a car had forced her vehicle off the road near the Home Depot before two men jumped out and demanded drugs. When she couldn't comply with their demands, the men grabbed her child and drove away, she alleged.
"The victim was with her son as she was driving westbound on SW 88 Street from 157 Avenue, when she noticed she was being followed by an unknown vehicle," Detective Angel Rodriguez of the Miami-Dade Police Department said at the time. "The driver of the unknown vehicle attempted to side-swipe her vehicle, forcing her to veer onto SW 158 Avenue." The mother also claimed she was blocked in by the other car.
"The vehicle then blocked her in while a male passenger ambushed her, demanding drugs," Rodriguez said of Ripley's account. "When she said she didn't have any drugs, he stole her cellular phone and abducted her son, fleeing southbound in the unknown vehicle." However, authorities canceled the Amber Alert when Alejandro's dead body was found in the canal.
According to a police report, investigators grew suspicious of Ripley's version of events after she gave multiple accounts that did not match the evidence. Security footage from the Home Depot revealed that Ripley was sitting alone in her car for at least 20 minutes before finally calling the authorities at 8.47 pm. When she continued giving conflicting statements, police confronted her with video surveillance footage showing her pushing the boy into the canal. Furthermore, witnesses also placed her at the scene of the crime.
Ripley was left with no choice but to recant her story, eventually admitting at about 8.30 pm, she “led the victim to the canal where he drowned. She states he’s going to be in a better place," according to the police report. The 45-year-old mother was subsequently booked at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on charges of first-degree murder and attempted premeditated murder. She is currently being held without bond, per Miami's WPLG-TV.
At least two dozen people came together Friday for a memorial service for Alejandro outside The Friendship Circle of Miami -- a center for children with special needs that the boy attended prior to the coronavirus lockdown, according to the outlet. “He was the world to his parents,” said Antoinette Uribe, who has known the Ripley family for a while. Uribe remembered Alejandro as a sweet and happy child. He was an autism spectrum disorder patient and had been spending more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, she added.