MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A Miami-Dade medical examiner confirmed Monday that 9-year-old Alejandro Ripley drowned last week.
The manner of death has been ruled a homicide, Forensic Investigator Daniel Cerna told Local 10 News in an email.
The confirmation comes after a witness told Local 10 News that he saw the boy in a canal behind the Kendall Acres Condominiums at 103rd Avenue and Kendall Drive before his body was eventually pulled from another canal near the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club on Kendale Lakes Drive.
“Kids fall in the canal all the time. We’ve lived here for 25 years,” said the witness, who didn’t want to be identified. “Usually you grab them, yank them out and away you go.”
The man said he didn’t think anything nefarious was going on when he saw the boy Thursday night sitting in the canal.
But police said this was actually 45-year-old Patricia Ripley’s first attempt at drowning her son, who was autistic and nonverbal.
“The only odd thing was she kind of started screaming and called his name, and then turned around and ran off screaming,” the man said.
The witness said Alejandro was sitting in the water that was chest high.
“He was just sitting there, and I tried to speak to him a couple times and he looked at me, and that’s when she returned with an older couple,” the man said. “And, at the time, I thought they were together because that woman was giving it to her, screaming, ‘What are you doing? Why’d you leave the kid there?’”
The man said he then saw an older man pull the boy out.
“They just dried him off and they walked that way. The older couple went into the hallway and she walked to the south with him,” the witness said.
Police said Ripley took her son to another canal and led him into the water to drown about an hour after that incident.
They said she then came up with a fake story about how an abduction had unfolded.
Alejandro was found dead the next day. Sources said he had head trauma.
Ripley faces charges of murder and attempted murder.
Her husband, Aldo Ripley, spoke to reporters last week after his wife’s first court appearance.
"We love Alejandro and we do not agree with everything they say about my wife,” he said.
The witness said he wishes Patricia Ripley would have had second thoughts about her actions.
“That was the sad part,” he said. “Like this is your moment to not do that. She had a moment where she tried it and it didn’t work -- maybe that’s the time to collect yourself and go on a different path.”
A relative spoke briefly to Local 10 News reporter Ian Margol on Monday outside the family’s home, saying the family is just trying to get through this and has been directed by their attorneys not to speak about the case.