The Amber Alert sounded in the early morning of May 22 trilling cell phones and the emergency broadcast system on local television networks, as well as sending the alert to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Network, a division of the US Department of Justice.
The Amber Alert was posted after the mother of Alejandro Ripley urgently called police emergency telling the 911 operator that her son had been abducted in South Miami. She frantically if not incoherently told police dispatch that two men of whom appeared to be of Afro-American descent cut off her car bringing it to a stop at the intersection of SW 158th Avenue and Kendall Drive.
The alert that went out through the airwaves stated that her son Alejandro is 4’11”, 120 lbs., with black hair and brown eyes. The child also suffers from a condition of severe autism and for all intents and purposes is non-verbal.
When police arrived at the scene of the alleged kidnapping the mother Patricia Ripley went on to tell them that the two men before they got away, taking her son as they bolted off in the car that pulled her van over to the side of the road. She also told them they stole some of her personal possessions specifically her cellphone and computer tablet.
However during initial questioning at the scene of the alleged attack the experienced detectives became skeptical of Mrs. Ripley’s statements as her explanation of the events she told them seemed to begin to waver.
After watching surveillance footage recorded by a camera that was located at a local a Home Depot, investigators observed as Mrs. Ripley sat in her parked car for a full fifteen minutes before making the frantic phone call to report the events of the abduction and report that her son was taken.
The Amber Alert was abruptly withdrawn the following morning after the body of Alejandro was found dead in a pond at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club in western Miami-Dade County.
As more of Mrs. Ripley’s statements were weighed by police, she was ultimately accused of being the killer of her 9-year-old son. Miami-Dade County Police Homicide detectives interviewed her for several hours before arresting her for the child’s homicide at the canal when she admitted to the crime and told police “he’s going to be in a better place”.
Detectives said that the killing was well-planned, and that Mrs. Ripley actually tried drowning the boy at an earlier time that same day. Other surveillance video emerged that showed a woman, matching the description of Ripley, pushing a boy into a canal at the Kendall Acres Condominium complex. According to the police report, a passerby saved the boy from the original drowning attempt by intervening and pulling the boy out of the canal apparently as he believed he was helping the mother bring her son to safety.
For now, Mrs. Ripley’s formal charges are on hold as she faces a grand-jury indictment for first-degree murder of her son. Due to the rampant surging of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida a grand jury could not be convened to consider a judgement for the capital charge. She is also facing charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, aggravated child abuse and filing a false police report.
During a brief virtual court hearing via closed-circuit television that Saturday, the Judge assigned to the case ruled that there was “probable cause” to keep her in jail.
First Degree Premeditated Murder is a charge that will hold the perpetrator in custody without any possibility of bond. A conviction could have the defendant facing the death penalty.
Despite the allegations laid out by authorities as well as the judge’s ruling, Patricia’s husband Aldo stood by his wife’s side telling reporters “The only thing I’ll say is that we love our life, we love Alejandro, and we don’t agree with whatever they say about my wife… It’s not real.”
Update: Ripley family requests public assistance from the court to help pay for defendant’s defense
Earlier last month (July, 2020) the Ripley family asked the Miami-Dade circuit judge in charge of the case to declare Mrs. Ripley “indigent,” even though her family had previously agreed to hire three defense attorneys in the amount of $300,000 to defend her.
In a court filing the State Attorney opposed the request, telling the judge that Ripley and her family are too well-off to be declared indigent and found the request to be nothing less than frivolous.
The prosecutor in that court filing, argued that the Ripley property which is located in the Dominican Republic has been put up as collateral to be able to pay the three lawyers they retained with that promise. “The Defendant herself owns close to seven acres of property also located in the Dominican Republic which is valued at possibly close to three quarters of a million dollars.
“The value of this property alone prevents the Defendant from being declared indigent,” wrote the prosecutor in the filing.
It was also noted that the salary earned by her husband was $144,000 annually, plus a 401(k), as well as the value of their West Kendall home and money from what was cited as “false income tax filings.”
In response during a morning hearing, one of Ripley’s defense attorneys, disputed the worth of the seaside property in the Dominican Republic, which could be purchased in the future by the island’s government. “She does not have access to the property and cannot take a loan on this property,” the lawyer said.
But the judge noted that the three lawyers already promised payment themselves were counting on the sale of the land to get paid their fees. However at least for now, he didn’t rule one way or the other at the conclusion of the request by the family.
While it can’t be known at this time how much the State would contribute if she was allowed to receive public assistance, similar death-penalty cases have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for lawyers, legal experts, investigators, and miscellaneous costs.
But at least for now, Mrs. Ripley remains behind bars until a grand jury will be charged with returning an indictment for the case to move forward.
Michael B. Cohen, Esq. is a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney whose expertise in homicide cases is extensive. As a former Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, and an Assistant United States Attorney for the government, Mr. Cohen clients receive the best sought possible outcome refuting any charges alleged by the State of Florida or the Federal Government. Working for the prosecution prior to founding his criminal defense practice in the private sector has given him a superior advantage that will result beneficially for those who seek his help. If you, a family member, or close friend is charged with any type of homicide, call Mr. Cohen at the earliest possible time for a free case evaluation.