MIAMI — A mother in Florida who is accused of drowning her 9-year-old son in a canal last month has pleaded not guilty through her attorney, the Miami Herald reports.
Patricia Ripley, 45, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse and filing a false police report.
Her son, Alejandro Ripley, who had severe autism and was nonverbal, was found dead on May 22 in a canal at a Golf & Country Club in western Miami-Dade County.
Prosecutors have filed a notice to seek a grand jury indictment for first-degree murder. At this time, grand juries have been suspended due to the pandemic. Someone cannot receive the death penalty unless they are indicted by a grand jury, according to Florida law.
Ripley initially told Miami-Dade Police that two men side-swiped her car while she was driving with her son, Alejandro Ripley, around 9 p.m. Thursday, officials said.
She said the men demanded drugs and abducted her son. Contradicting witness statements and video footage later surfaced, and she admitted to her son’s death.
“She stated he’s going to be in a better place,” the Miami-Dade County Police said in an affidavit.
Video shows boy was pushed into a canal
Ripley initially told police the driver of the vehicle had a knife, got out and demanded drugs.
When she didn’t provide drugs, the man opened the car door and took her cellphone and tablet, she said, according to the affidavit. Then he kidnapped Alejandro, it added.
The boy’s body was found hours later still wearing a Captain America T-shirt, said Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the Miami-Dade State Attorney.
Once she was taken to the missing person’s office, police said, Ripley began providing conflicting statements about what took place.
Ripley was then taken to the homicide bureau where she was read her Miranda rights.
“These statements … contradicted the statements of witnesses and the video footage obtained from the area,” police said in the affidavit. “Upon being confronted with this information, the defendant recanted her initial story including that she had been robbed.”
Video footage shows Ripley pushing the victim into a canal around 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Nearby residents heard screaming, found Alejandro in the canal and rescued him, Rundle said.
Ripley took Alejandro to a different canal an hour later where the boy drowned, the affidavit said.
She was arrested and booked in the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on Saturday, according to Miami-Dade County Corrections records.