SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A heartbroken community is mourning the death of a 9-year-old boy with autism days after, police said, he lost his life at the hands of his own mother in Southwest Miami-Dade.
Two makeshift memorials continued to grow on Monday near a lake at Miccosukee Golf and Country Club where, investigators said, Alejandro Ripley’s body was found early Friday morning.
A bicyclist who came to pay his respects broke down in tears when asked about the incident.
“That’s sad news, such sad news. I’m sorry,” he said as he walked away.
He was not alone. Strangers paused to pray for the boy on a rainy afternoon.
“We figured we’d come out. We’re Catholic, so we’re doing a rosary in his name,” said a man who came with loved ones.
Another mourner wondered whether or not this tragedy could have been prevented.
“If she didn’t want the kid, why didn’t she give him away? She didn’t have to kill him,” he said.
Alejandro’s mother, Patricia Ripley, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and attempted premeditated murder over the weekend.
“It really makes me mad, ’cause now this lady is going to spend the rest of her life in prison,” said a mourner, “so she ruined her life, and she ruined the kid’s life.”
Among those shaken by the child’s death are members of the boy’s school community.
“It’s devastating. It’s heartbreaking. His life was cut too short,” said Arlene Torres, who taught Alejandro, “He had the chance to make something of himself.”
Investigators said Patricia called 911 on Thursday night and claimed two men ambushed her and kidnapped her son.
But hours before, witnesses spotted the mother and son walking along a canal near Southwest 103rd Avenue and 88th Street.
An area resident who asked not to be identified said she saw the boy fall into the water.
“They were walking towards the embankment of the canal. As I get further into my patio, I think to myself, ‘Oh my, he’s going to fall down,’ and he did,” she said.
The witness said she sensed there was something strange about the mother.
“The only weird thing was that at first she was just standing there,” she said, “until she saw me screaming, and that’s when she took off screaming for help.”
Witnesses said Patricia came back with a man who helped pull Alejandro out of the water.
Authorities said this was the mother’s first attempt at killing her son.
“An hour later, she again brought him and led him to a different canal, located by Southwest 62nd Street and 138th Court,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “This time, unfortunately, there was no one there to save him.”
When confronted by detectives, police said, Patricia admitted to pushing Alejandro into the lake, where he drowned.
Alejandro’s former teachers at MOT Academy posted a tribute on Facebook. He had left the school at the end of last year.
“Your heart breaks for him. It breaks for the family,” said Torres, “and you wish you could have been there. You wish you could have changed what happened and the outcome.”
Patricia is being held without bond at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in West Miami-Dade.
Her family is asking the public to withhold judgment until she has her full day in court.
“People all around you are struggling with these same issues. You just have to be able to share your thoughts, share your feelings and get the help that you need and get it quick,” said Torres. “Don’t let something like this happen again.”
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