Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Two Florida parents were arrested after their 3-year-old son with autism drowned in a pond behind their Sanford apartment complex, according to multiple reports.

Ethan Ortiz Ruiz was rescued from a pond and later died at a nearby hospital on Saturday afternoon, according to Sanford police.

On Sunday, Sanford police arrested the child’s parents, Barbara Ruiz and Lester Ortiz, for aggravated manslaughter of a child.

The death of the three-year-old autistic child, according to police, was a preventable tragedy.

“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,” Sanford police spokesperson Bianca Gillett said.

In the arrest report, the parents said, “Ethan has left the residence on three different occasions.”

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

Both said they had medical marijuana cards, according to the report.

Police said they were called in March in reference to the same toddler called by the apartment managers. A deputy who responded said back then, the child had been found alone before. And in March, the child was wading in the pond where he was found floating Saturday.

In this most recent case, police say both parents were home and possibly under the influence.

“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,” Gillett said.

It all added up to the decision to arrest them for manslaughter.

“You have two parents in the home; you had no safety measures taken for a child you know has done this on multiple occasions, so they absolutely could have prevented the death of this child,” Gillett said.

On the manslaughter charges, the bond was set at $25,000, but neither can bond out right away because of probation violations.

The day of the rescue was a moment Corey Sanger says you could have heard a pin drop outside of the Crosby Towne Center apartments in Sanford.

“They pulled up the child and threw him on a stretcher. We watched them perform CPR,” he said.

Residents of the complex watched first responders jump into the pond and pull Ethan out.

Sanger says his initial heartbreak over the news turned into frustration.

“I’m infuriated. I’m not a father but I can’t imagine having my child leave my sight,” Sanger said.

One resident, who did not want to be on camera, told us her neighbors found the toddler wandering by the dumpsters a month ago.

“They picked up that baby, and it was just in diapers. It’s devastating,” she said.

She said as a mother, she doesn’t understand how Ethan could have gotten out.

“How does it happen when we have two doors and one of them has a safety lock? It’s way up high. So, for a 2 or 3-year-old baby to just wander around. It’s a really devastating story. Whether it’s neglect or not, that’s somebody’s child,” she said.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born |