Patricia Ripley is accused of first-degree murder as police investigate the death of her son, an autistic, non-verbal 9-year-old named Alejandro who was found dead in a golf course canal, according to court and jail records. According to what police told the Miami Herald, the 45-year-old Ripley said Alejandro was “going to be in a better place.”
Initially, Ripley told police that her son had been abducted by two black men who ran her off the road, demanded drugs, snatched her son and fled the scene in a light blue sedan, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. That night, an Amber Alert was issued as Florida law enforcement — including the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), Special Victims Bureau, Missing Persons Unit — began looking for two abductors: one dressed in all black with a black bandana covering his face and another with cornrows, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The Miami Herald has noted that Ripley’s case is similar to the 1995 case of Susan Leigh Smith, who was convicted of killing her two children after concocting an abduction story involving a black man who carjacked her and took off with her children. In both cases, authorities said the children drowned at the hand of a mother who blamed fictitious abductors.
Susan Smith Blamed A Black Carjacker for Her Sons’ Deaths
On October 5, 1994, Smith told Union County police that a black man approached her while her car was stopped at a red light, forced her out of the car at gunpoint and drove off with her 14-month-old and 2-year-old sons in the back, The State newspaper reported.
The accusations led to racial tensions in South Carolina’s county of Union, the Washington Post reported: “News that Smith had confessed to the crime angered the town’s tight-knit African American community, which found it suspicious that no one recognized Smith’s description of the purported kidnapper.”
Smith pleaded on TV for the safe return of her boys with her husband, David, at her side, the Post reported.
But within two weeks of reporting the abduction, Smith had confessed to Union County sheriff’s officials that she had made up the kidnapping story and actually drowned her two children, The State reported. Smith strapped her sons, 14-month-old Alex and 3-year-old Michael, into the backseat of her car, a burgundy 1990 Mazda Protégé, and pushed the car into John D. Long Lake using an access ramp, the paper reported.
Smith was convicted of two counts of murder and given a life sentence, instead of the death penalty sentence prosecutors were seeking; she has spent the last 25 years in prison. Since her conviction, Smith has sent letters to The State in which she said she wasn’t in her right mind when she committed the murders and made up the abduction story because she didn’t know how to confess:
‘I didn’t know how to tell the people who loved Michael and Alex that they would never see them again… ‘I had planned to kill myself first and leave a note behind telling what had happened … I didn’t believe I could face my family when the truth was revealed.’
Police and prosecutors suspected Smith’s actions were motivated by the end of an affair she had been having with a local man, Tom Findlay, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune wrote that in a letter Findlay sent breaking up with Smith, it implied that “he broke off the affair, in part, because he did not want to accept the responsibility of children.”
Smith will be eligible for parole on November 4, 2024.
Police Are Accusing Ripley of Trying To Kill Her Son Twice Thursday Night
Police initially provided this account:
According to investigators, 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. The driver of the unknown vehicle attempted to side-swipe her vehicle, forcing her to veer onto SW 158 Avenue. The vehicle then blocked her in while a male passenger ambushed her, demanding drugs. After stating she didn’t have any drugs, he then stole her cellular phone and abducted her son, fleeing southbound in the unknown vehicle.
Around 12 hours after Ripley reported Alejandro kidnapped by the two black men who cut her off at an intersection, a body was found in the bond of the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club, around four miles from where Ripley had said her son was abducted, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement called off the Amber Alert and confirmed that Alejandro was found dead.
However, police told the Miami Herald that video surveillance footage authorities obtained revealed discrepancies in Ripley’s story.
Ripley was accused of admitting that she made up the story about her son’s abduction, local news station CBS-4 reported, after police told the station they had witnesses who saw her with Alejandro near where his body was found. Police also said they had video footage showing her sitting alone at the Home Depot inside her car for 20 minutes before she called police, according to The Miami Herald.
The Miami Herald also reported that police said they have video surveillance footage showing Ripley pushing Alejandro into the canal; the paper also reported that police are accusing Ripley of leading “the victim to the canal where he drowned.”
At a press conference held May 23, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said police are accusing Ripley of trying to drown her son, not once but twice.
“Local residents heard screaming and went to assist and they found Alejandro in the canal and rescued him,” Rundle said. “An hour later, she again brought him and led him to a different canal … this time, unfortunately, there was no one there to save him.”
Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez, also present at the press conference, said he was very disappointed by the abduction story Ripley told police. “For her to displace blame of her crime on another community is just as well another crime that was committed,” he said.
Ripley appeared at a court hearing May 23 wearing clothes for inmates under suicide watch, the Herald reported. Her husband, Aldo Ripley, said that he doesn’t believe the charges against his wife.