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MIAMI – A South Florida woman accused in the drowning death of her 9-year-old son last month pleaded not guilty through her attorney Friday.

Patricia Ripley, 45, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated child abuse and filing a false police report, the Miami Herald reported. Alejandro Ripley, who had severe autism and was nonverbal, was found dead on May 22 in a canal at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club in western Miami-Dade County.

Less than a day earlier, his mother had reported the boy had been abducted by two men who forced her van off a Miami-Dade County road, the newspaper reported.


On Friday, Miami-Dade prosecutors, still waiting for a grand jury to reconvene because of the coronavirus pandemic, filed a “notice of intent” to seek an indictment of first-degree murder, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Under Florida law, only someone who is indicted by a grand jury can receive the death penalty, according to the Herald.

The hearing was held during a videoconference, the newspaper reported. Ripley, who remains jailed, did not appear during the hearing. She entered her plea through her attorney, Susy Ribero-Ayala.

Authorities said the murder was well-planned and that Patricia Ripley actually tried drowning the boy earlier on May 21, the Herald reported. A chilling surveillance video showed a woman, whom police identified as Ripley, pushing the boy into a canal at the Kendall Acres Condominium complex around 7:30 p.m. May 21, WPLG-TV reported. According to police, a neighbor rescued the boy from the canal, the Herald reported.

Less than an hour later, police said Ripley took her son to a canal at the golf course, where he drowned. Alejandro Ripley’s body was found the next morning.

“She states he’s going to be in a better place,” police said in their affidavit.