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‘It Could Have Been Prevented’: Florida Couple Arrested After 3-Year-Old Autistic Son Drowns in Pond, Cops Say

Florida Couple Arrested After 3-Year-Old Son Drowns in Pond: Cops
Source: Seminole County Jail

Barbara Ruiz and Lester Ortiz were arrested after their 3-year-old son died after drowning in a pond at their Florida apartment complex.

Oct. 22 2023, Published 10:01 a.m. ET

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A 3-year-old autistic boy was found floating in a pond in Florida and now police say his parents have been arrested and charged in connection with his death.

On Oct. 14, officers rescued Ethan Ortiz Ruiz from a pond, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, WESH reported.

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On Oct. 15, police took Ethan’s parents, Barbara Ruiz and Lester Ortiz, into custody and charged them with aggravated manslaughter of a child.

Sanford police spokesperson Bianca Gillett told WESH, "It's even more tragic when it could have been prevented because these parents had knowledge that this 3-year-old knew how to get out of the apartment; it had happened on a number of occasions.”

According to an arrest report obtained by WESH, Ruiz and Ortiz told police the boy had left the residence on three different occasions.

Police claimed the boy’s father had a “strong odor of fresh marijuana coming from his clothing, bloodshot eyes, sweating profusely" and the mother allegedly “also had bloodshot eyes and that the entire residence had a strong odor of freshly smoked marijuana.”

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The parents told police they both had medical marijuana cards, according to the arrest report.

In March 2023, apartment managers called authorities about the same toddler, court documents state.

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The officer who responded at that time said the child was wading in the same pond where he was later found floating and the child had been spotted alone before.

Gillett, the police spokesperson, told WESH, “They did not take any safety measures that should have been taken to keep the kids inside the home, safety precautions, child safety locks none were enabled.”

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Gillett added that the parents “absolutely could have prevented the death of this child” since he had done this before on multiple occasions, yet they didn’t take any safety measures to prevent it from happening again.

The parents were booked into Seminole County jail. Their bonds were each set at $25,000 each, but neither can bond out because of probation violations, officials said.

One of the family’s neighbors questioned how it was possible for the child to have died since there were two doors and a safety lock

"It’s a really devastating story," the neighbor told WESH. "Whether it’s neglect or not, that’s somebody’s child.”

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