Alejandro Ripley, 9-year-old Miami boy found dead (Reports).
A severely autistic 9-year-old boy was found dead in a Southwest Miami-Dade canal Friday morning, several hours after his mother told police her son had been abducted by two men who had forced her to pull her car over, demanded drugs, then took the child.
Patricia Ripley’s Thursday evening story about being cut off in traffic and forced to pull over and then having her child taken set off a wide and desperate manhunt by law enforcement for the child. That ended about 12 hours later after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said on Twitter that the missing child had been found dead.
A short while later, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians sent out a press release saying it was “deeply saddened to hear about the tragic loss of 9-year-old Alejandro Ripley.”
Miami-Dade Police, the lead agency in the investigation, had not confirmed that Alejandro had been found by early afternoon. Friday morning the agency said a body had been found in a canal near the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club at Southwest 138th Court and 62nd Street.
“Alejandro Ripley was reported as abducted last night. We are not ruling out the possibility that this could be the same case, the same person,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Christopher Sowerby-Thomas told CBS Channel 4.
Alejandro’s body was found about four miles away from where police say his mother claimed he was kidnapped. She told them she was driving west on Kendall Drive when she noticed she was being followed. Soon after, she said, the other vehicle tried to side-swipe her, forcing her car onto Southwest 158th Avenue, where it came to a stop when the other car blocked it.
She told police that a man in a mask approached her and demanded drugs. After she said she didn’t have any, she said he grabbed her cellphone then took the child out of her vehicle, got back in his vehicle and drove off. She told police there was another man in the other vehicle.
Ripley also told police there were two abductors. One, she said, was dressed in all black and had his face covered by a bandanna. She claimed the man had corn rows. When he was abducted, Alejandro’s mother said, the child was wearing a blue Captain America shirt, black shorts and black Crocs.
A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said police were interviewing Alejandro’s parents Friday afternoon and questioning the story. It’s not known where Alejandro’s father was at the time when his mother claimed her child was abducted. The source said a security camera at Home Depot in West Kendall caught Patricia Ripley sitting in her car alone for 20 minutes prior to her call to police about the alleged abduction at 8:47 p.m.
Sowerby-Thomas said homicide detectives believe the child found in the pond on the Miccousukee property is Alejandro, but they had not officially confirmed that by late afternoon. He also said the child’s parents and other family members were still being interviewed by detectives late Friday afternoon.
News of Alejandro’s death and the story of his abduction drew the immediate attention of the special needs community. Friendship Circle of Miami, which helps those in need develop life skills, set up a drive-thru memorial service for the child Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. at 8700 SW 112th St.
The non-profit said that though Alejandro, who is non-verbal, is not a member, he’s considered “part of our extended family.” Anyone who wishes to attend must remain in their vehicle and wear a face mask. The agency will collect sympathy cards, mementos and flowers that will later be delivered to Alejandro’s family.
“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of life of this precious young child whose body was found a few miles from our campus,” said Rabbi Yossi Harlig, the nonprofit’s executive director. “No child should ever be in this position, especially a child with special needs who cannot call out for help. We all grieve for Alejandro and his family.”