The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's office ruled Tuesday that the official cause of Alejandro Ripley's death was drowning, and that the manner was homicide.
Police found Ripley's body in a lake Friday at at Miccosukee Golf and Country Club. His mother, Patricia Ripley, is being held in jail on no bond and has been charged with premeditated murder.
In the rain over the Memorial Day weekend, parents of other children with autism came to the golf course and dropped off flowers for a makeshift memorial.
“All of us have kids here like Alejandro, every single one of us," one parent said. "We are here to show our support for him and to let our community know this is serious."
Parents, mental health and disability experts are trying to sort out why the tragedy took place and what led Patricia Ripley to allegedly kill her son, who had autism and was non-verbal. Prosecutors say video shows she pushed the boy into another body of water an hour before, just a few miles away. One woman who helped the boy out of the water there said she could tell that he had special needs.
“He looked like he was going to drown. His arms keep going down, then he came back up," Michelle Amatto said. "He wasn’t speaking or saying help or anything like that, which I thought was really odd, and being a mom, I know something was off."
Miriam Soto's brother, Arnaldo Rios Soto, was 23 years old when a North Miami police officer shot at him and wounded his caretaker. Jonathan Aledda was convicted of a misdemeanor but acquitted of attempted manslaughter after he shot at Soto, who he thought the toy he was holding was a gun.
"I just felt like a sick pain in my stomach, like it was sickening," Miriam Soto said. "I don’t know if she felt if she was alone and there were not enough resources, or overwhelmed or overburdened, I am not sure. We are all human, however, there’s other ways to cope and there are other ways to find help out there. I am sure there are. I know this.”
Soto said that she was not making any judgements but that there are steps to get the help Patricia Ripley might have needed.
The law firm for Patricia Ripley told NBC 6 said they met with the family Tuesday and did not provide further information.