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Couple Allegedly Smoked Weed While Autistic Son Left Apartment Unnoticed, Drowned In Nearby Pond

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A Florida couple is facing felony manslaughter charges after their 3-year-old autistic child drowned in a pond while the two had allegedly been smoking marijuana inside their home, according to court documents.

Lester Ortiz, 39, and Barbara Ruiz, 37, called the Sanford Police Department in the afternoon on Saturday and reported that their 3-year-old son Ethan had been missing from their apartment for around 30 minutes, according to an arrest report.

Ruiz reportedly told the officers that Ethan had run off at least three times before but had been brought to the apartment complex’s front office by a neighbor, according to the report.

According to Ruiz, she was in the bathroom around 30 minutes before the police arrived when she heard the front door open and close and asked her 15-year-old daughter to check the door but did not realize Ethan had left.

Ruiz said she then called Ortiz to see if Ethan was with him, but Ortiz was in the apartment’s other bathroom without the boy, according to the report. Ortiz and Ruiz then reportedly began to look for Ethan inside the home and near the pond directly behind their apartment, per the report.

Investigators noted in the report that Ortiz had a “strong odor of fresh marijuana coming from his clothing, bloodshot eyes, and was sweating profusely.” Ruiz also had bloodshot eyes and the inside of their apartment – which was “in a state of disarray” – smelled of marijuana, per the arrest report.

A search of the home found marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Around 20 minutes after arriving at the scene, officers noticed an “unknown object” floating in the pond and discovered it was the body of the missing 3-year-old child, according to the report. Ethan was taken to the local hospital by the fire department and pronounced dead shortly after.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, this was not the first time they had received reports about Ethan. In March, the agency said he was found “knee-deep” in the pond after he unlocked the front door, but was found by neighbors since Ortiz was allegedly asleep and had not noticed his son’s escape, according to the arrest report.

The couple’s other son, a 6-year-old also diagnosed with autism, had gone missing while in their care the year prior, the child agency reported.

Ortiz and Ruiz told investigators that they both hold medical marijuana cards and “smoke marijuana on a regular basis,” according to the arrest report.

They were both arrested and are being held without bond with an arraignment scheduled for Nov. 14, according to court records.



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