Video Shows Mom Pushing Son With Autism Into Canal
MIAMI — Days after Patricia Ripley was charged with the murder of her son with autism, shocking surveillance video of her apparently pushing the child into a canal has emerged.
The video, obtained and aired by Univision’s national news network, shows Ripley walking 9-year-old Alejandro on the bank of a West Kendall canal, looking around, stroking his head — and then forcefully shoving him into the water.
Then, Ripley runs away off screen. About 20 seconds later, she returns accompanied by a bystander who saw the child in the murky water and rushed to rescue him.
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Authorities say the shove was Ripley’s first, but thwarted, attempt to kill Alejandro last Thursday evening. About an hour later, with no bystanders to rescue him, the boy was led into another canal, where he ultimately died, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has told reporters.
The death of Alejandro, who had severe autism and could not speak, has enraged the public — along with Ripley’s bogus report to Miami-Dade police that two black men kidnapped the boy after running her off the road that night.
The video, apparently taken from a nearby condo complex, will be key evidence against Ripley as she awaits trial for first-degree murder and attempted murder. She remains in a Miami-Dade jail.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled the death as drowning.
Investigators say they believe Ripley, 45, a married mother of two, had become overwhelmed in caring for the boy in recent months. Even before the pandemic, the boy had been receiving therapy at the family’s West Kendall home.
Last Thursday night, Ripley called police to report that a light blue car had run her off the road, near a Home Depot. She claimed that one man in the car got out, demanded drugs at knifepoint, then took the boy, her cellphone and a tablet.
State authorities immediately issued an Amber Alert for the missing child, but investigators quickly grew suspicious because the story seemed unbelievable and Ripley gave shifting versions of what happened. On Friday morning, the boy’s body was found in a canal near the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, at Southwest 138th Court and 62nd Street, about four miles from where the alleged abduction took place.
Miami-Dade homicide detectives immediately learned that Ripley, earlier in the evening, had been seen with the boy at another spot along a canal. The video footage showed her pushing the boy into the water — but a bystander rescued the boy. How she persuaded the bystander to not call 911 remained unclear, but the boy was apparently not hurt.
Sources say a security camera at a Home Depot near where the alleged abduction took place also showed Ripley sitting in her car — without Alejandro — for 20 minutes before she called police at 8:47 p.m. Thursday.
During hours of interrogation, detectives confronted Ripley with the footage, and she admitted she’d made up the kidnapping story, according to an arrest report. She ultimately confessed to leading the boy to the canal where he ultimately died, and said “he’s going to be in a better place.”
The child’s death has led to a surge in crisis calls for parents dealing with children with severe autism.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office will likely seek an indictment for first-degree murder, which means Ripley will face the death penalty. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, however, grand juries have been suspended so the indictment is likely months away. The case has been assigned to Gail Levine, one of the office’s most seasoned homicide prosecutors.
The video would likely have been released eventually under Florida’s broad public records law.
Before the release of the video, Ripley’s family stood behind her.
“We love Alejandro and we don’t agree about whatever they said about my wife,” her husband, Aldo Ripley, told reporters after a court hearing on Saturday. “It’s not real.”
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