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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    Putting a Coronavirus squeeze on the Democratic Governor of North Carolina, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he would give state officials one week to offer up assurances that Charlotte could host the GOP convention in August without unnecessary restrictions, or move it to another state. 'I'd love to have it in North Carolina,' the President told reporters in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, as he pressed Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to make a decision on the convention, scheduled for August 24-27. 'I don't want to have it where we get there, and then they announce after all the money was spent, all the work was done, all the people traveled in, guess what, you can't put anybody in the arena, or you can put a tiny number of people in the arena,' President Trump said. 'All he has to do is tell us, and then we'll have to pick another location, and I'll tell you, a lot of locations want it,' Mr. Trump added. In Raleigh, Gov. Cooper gave no indication of any imminent decision, confirming reports that state officials had been in contact already with GOP officials about possible ways the virus might impact the convention. 'We're talking about something that is going to happen three months from now, and we don't know what our situation is going to be,' Cooper told reporters on Tuesday. Unlike other states, North Carolina has been struggling to get the virus outbreak under control, with elevated numbers of new cases and deaths in recent weeks. In Mecklenburg County, which includes the city of Charlotte where the GOP convention would be staged, the rate of positive tests for the virus has been increasing, and hospitalizations have been increasing. In the meantime, the Governors of Florida and Georgia quickly made clear they would be more than happy to help President Trump and the GOP by hosting the convention - instead of Charlotte. 'With world-class facilities, restaurants, hotels, and workforce, Georgia would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention,' said Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia. 'We hope you will consider the Peach State.' 'Florida would love to have the RNC,' said Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
  • As President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to use his bully pulpit to criticize the use of mail-in ballots in the 2020 elections, election officials in his home state of Florida are sending a much different message than the President, openly encouraging voters to cast their vote by mail. 'Consider requesting a vote-by-mail ballot,' the Sarasota County, Florida Supervisor of Elections office tweeted on Tuesday just a few minutes after the President again denounced mail-in voting. 'If you haven't requested #VoteByMail for the upcoming elections yet, we're making it really easy!' tweeted Craig Latimer, the Supervisor of Elections in Hillsborough County, Florida. 'Vote from home this fall!' the Orange County, Florida Supervisor of Elections office tweeted last Friday. 'Request your vote-by-mail ballot today.' 'Do something patriotic to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice,' tweeted Jennifer Edwards, the Supervisor of Elections in Collier County, Florida. 'Request your Vote-by-Mail ballot.' Vote-by-Mail in Florida - which is the same as Absentee-by-mail in other states - accounted for 2.7 million of the over 9 million votes cast in the 2016 elections by Florida voters, and has been highly encouraged by leaders of both parties in the state. 'We figured out how to do it in a safe manner,' said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.  But while President Trump uses Vote-by-Mail in Florida, he has repeatedly charged using the mail for voting is susceptible to election fraud. 'There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,' the President tweeted on Tuesday. The most recent high profile example of fraud involving mail-in absentee ballots was in 2018 in North Carolina, where a Republican victory for the U.S. House was overturned after evidence of fraud involving a man hired by the GOP candidate. In 2018, Republicans - led by President Trump - made repeated claims of possible election fraud in Florida as the votes were counted after Election Day - but a recent investigation found no evidence of vote tampering. Only five states have all vote-by-mail elections - Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, Oregon and Washington State - but most states have expanded their absentee-by-mail voting options in 2020 because of the Coronavirus outbreak. President Trump signed into law a bill which included $400 million to help states prepare for increased numbers of mail-in ballots, but he has said he would block any additional funding for that purpose. A federal government report said that in 2016, 23.7 percent were cast using by mail absentee voting - that should increase dramatically this year.
  • The White House on Sunday added Brazil to the list of nations where foreign nationals are not allowed entry into the United States, in another bid to use travel restrictions to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. 'As of May 23, 2020, Brazil had 310,087 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world,' said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a statement.  'Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country,' she added. The new rules apply not only to Brazilians, but also any other non-U.S. citizen who has been in the South American nation. The changes will take place late this week. The decision comes as the virus outbreak has been spreading in Brazil, which is now seen as the third worst in the world, behind the U.S. and Russia. Last week, President Trump had hinted at such a move. 'I don't want people coming in here and infecting our people,' the President told reporters when asked about a possible move to slow travel with Brazil. 'Brazil is having some trouble. No question about it,' Mr. Trump added on May 19. The designation of Brazil adds that nation to a list of travel restrictions because of the Coronavirus which includes the United Kingdom, most countries in mainland Europe, and China.
  • Pressing states to swiftly drop their restrictions related to the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Friday declared that houses of worship were 'essential' to communities, calling on governors to immediately allow religious gatherings this weekend, ending weeks of restrictions due to the threat of the Coronavirus. In a hastily called statement in the White House Briefing Room, the President said religious services are needed to 'help hold our society together.' 'Many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life,' President Trump told reporters.  'We want our places of faith, our synagogues, we want them open,' Mr. Trump declared. “Today I am identifying houses of worship - churches, synagogues and mosques - as essential places that provide essential services,” the President told reporters. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” Mr. Trump added. GOP lawmakers in Congress praised the President's call. 'This is the correct decision,' said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), 'churches and other houses of worship are an important part of the fabric of American life.' 'Churches and other houses of worship are an essential part of any free and healthy democracy,' said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). But churches and religious meetings have been a stubborn source of Coronavirus infections all across the nation, prompting states to bar such gatherings. Earlier this month on Mother's Day, a church in northern California defied authorities and held a gathering for 180 people.  The next day, one attendee tested positive for the virus. In another California case, several people came down with the virus, after working as part of skeleton crew to live stream Mother's Day church services.
  • Pushing on states to loosen Coronavirus limits on business, schools, and restaurants, President Donald Trump on Thursday escalated warnings from his administration about re-opening churches, accusing Democratic Governors of standing in the way of religious liberty. 'One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open,' the President told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before going to Michigan. 'The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of Democrat Governors,' President Trump said. 'I want to get our churches open.' The President's remarks amplified growing calls among Republicans for virus restrictions to be dropped on churches, part of a broader GOP argument against Democrats over how the Coronavirus has been dealt with. Mr. Trump's comments also come as the Centers for Disease has yet to issue guidelines about how churches should deal with the Coronavirus re-opening, amid press reports that the White House has rejected the idea of limits on church activities. The President's statement to reporters came two days after the Justice Department warned the state of California its Coronavirus rules might be discriminating against churches. 'Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,' read part of a three page letter from the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division. But even with highly restricted church operations in California, there have been Coronavirus infections. In northern California, a Mother's Day church service earlier this month - live streamed to parishioners by a skeleton crew at a church - resulted in three people being infected by the Coronavirus. And in another Mother's Day church service - this time a gathering of some 180 people north of Sacramento - one person who attended tested positive for the virus the next day. Earlier this week, the CDC issued a review of a Coronavirus cluster outbreak at a church in Arkansas, where the pastor and his wife seemingly spurred dozens of cases, which also spread to the larger community. Of the 92 people who attended church events with those two, at least 35 were infected, and three ended up dying. 'Churches should open when it is safe to do so,' wrote Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, and editor of America Magazine. 'Churches should open when public health officials, who know more about epidemiology than church leaders do, conclude that it is safe to do so,' Martin wrote, responding to President Trump's remarks on Thursday.
  • While NASA officials have urged the public not to mass near the Kennedy Space Center for next week's manned test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft because of Coronavirus concerns, President Donald Trump indicated Thursday he may be ready for a VIP visit. 'I'm thinking about going, that will be next week, to the rocket launch,' the President told reporters before leaving for a day trip to Michigan. The test flight, which would be the first manned space flight launched from the U.S. in almost nine years, is set for May 27. Mr. Trump playfully jabbed at reporters about a possible visit to the launch. 'I hope you're all going to join me. I'd like to put you on the rocket, get rid of you for a while,' the President said. A possible trip to Florida next week comes as President Trump presses states to drop their Coronavirus restrictions, and allow shuttered businesses to re-open. Mr. Trump has been traveling more frequently in recent weeks, going to Michigan on Thursday, Pennsylvania last week, and Arizona earlier this month. The White House has indicated Mr. Trump will go to Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Monday to celebrate Memorial Day. But that does not mean local political dignitaries will be on hand. President Trump also indicated on Thursday that the meeting of the G7 nations would be held next month despite the virus, possibly split between Washington and Camp David.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court edged closer to possible oral arguments on whether secret grand jury materials gathered during the Russia investigation should be shared with committees in Congress, putting on hold an order from lower courts for the feds to turn over those materials. In an order issued Wednesday afternoon, the Justices invited the feds to ask the High Court to accept the case for review, giving the Justice Department a June 1 deadline to submit a writ of certiorari. If the Justices were to accept the case, arguments would not take place until the fall, possibly right around the November elections. In March, a three judge panel of the D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Democrats in Congress, saying lawmakers have the right to go through the materials gathered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators. 'Because the Department of Justice is simply the custodian of the grand jury materials at issue however, the instant case is unlike inter-branch disputes where Congress issued subpoenas and directed Executive Branch officials to testify and produce their relevant documents,' wrote Judge Judith Rogers in the 2-1 decision.
  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday attacked the swing state of Michigan for sending out mail-in ballot applications for elections in 2020, ignoring a series of Republican states which have done the exact same thing to help people vote during the Coronavirus outbreak. 'Trump is spreading lies about voting (again),' said Marc Elias, a top Democratic Party election lawyer. “Donald Trump is exploiting a pandemic to suppress Americans' votes in November,” said Sen. Ron  Wyden (D-OR), whose state votes entirely by mail. On Twitter, the President first incorrectly accused the state of Michigan of sending out mail-in ballots to all registered voters; instead, the state has sent absentee ballot applications, just like a series of other GOP states. Michigan Secretary of State went on Twitter to respond to the President's criticism, saying she's following the lead of others in sending out applications for mail-in ballots. 'Just like my GOP colleagues in Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska and West Virginia,' Jocelyn Benson said. '@RealDonaldTrump 's revenge politics is petty & pathetic,' said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). In his Twitter shots at Michigan and Nevada, the President threatened to withhold federal funding for those states, if they went ahead with their mail-in balloting plans. 'State of Nevada “thinks” that they can send out illegal vote by mail ballots, creating a great Voter Fraud scenario for the State and the U.S.,' the President tweeted 'They can’t! If they do, “I think” I can hold up funds to the State.' While Nevada has a Democratic Governor, the Republican Secretary of State opted for a full mail-in ballot primary election. The President made no threats on Wednesday to withhold federal funding from Republican-controlled states which have send out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, like Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, and West Virginia. The attacks on mail-in ballots are part of the President's broader accusation that mail-in voting is rife with fraud, a charge which is not backed up by evidence from states which conduct mail-in elections. Mr. Trump voted in Florida's primary this year by using a mail-in absentee ballot. 'Trump is falsely calling vote by mail fraud - even though he votes by mail,' said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). The President's criticism of Nevada drew an especially sharp response from two Democratic lawmakers in Congress. “Trump is threatening to harm Nevadans because our Republican Secretary of State is making it easier for them to vote,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).  “He'll do anything to distract the public from his incompetent COVID-19 response.”
  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday said it was a 'badge of honor' that the United States leads the world in the number of Coronavirus cases, as he said the main reason is the growing testing capability nationwide for the virus. 'I view it as a badge of honor,' the President told reporters during a White House Cabinet meeting. 'It's a great tribute to the testing, and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done.' 'If we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, we would have far fewer cases,' Mr. Trump added. The President's comments came as the number of U.S. virus cases topped 1.5 million on Tuesday, with the death toll moving over 90,000 Americans in just three months. The President's comments came as he again defended his decision to take the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, in an effort to ward off the Coronavirus. After a meeting with GOP Senators on Capitol Hill, the President was asked why he would take a drug which his own Food and Drug Administration had urged Americans to avoid taking for the virus. 'Well, I've worked with doctors,' President Trump answered, as he denounced a study which raised questions about the use of the drug, a 'Trump-enemy statement.' The President offered no evidence to back up his claim on the study. Mr. Trump also claimed Tuesday that meat packing plants - which have featured a number of Coronavirus infection hot spots - are almost fully cured of the virus, though reporting in multiple states about positive cases at those plants shows otherwise. 'That's going away. The plants are very, very clean now,' as the President claimed the plants were 'cleaner than they've ever been.' Democrats disputed the President's rosy assertion about meat packing facilities. 'I have repeatedly called on this Administration to issue mandatory protections to keep workers safe and healthy, but Trump is again failing to get the job done,' said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The issue could come up at the White House on Wednesday, when the Governor of Kansas visits. That state has seen some 1,800 infections at a series of meat packing plants, but only a handful of deaths.
  • As states relax their restrictions imposed in March because of the Coronavirus outbreak, schools at all levels are now trying to figure out the best road ahead in the fall, with deep uncertainty about how the virus outbreak will impact kids from pre-school to college. In recent days, two major universities have announced they would scrap a standard fall break for students, worried the travel from school to home - and then back to school - could further spread the virus. 'Two major changes will stand out as you review the following schedule,' wrote University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen. 'First, there will be no Fall Break and second, we will conclude face-to-face instruction at Thanksgiving Break.' At the University of Notre Dame, classes will start on August 10, two weeks earlier than normal, with no fall break in October, and an end to classes by Thanksgiving. 'Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed,' said Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's President. At Purdue University, the school calendar is being compressed as well, with no day off for Labor Day, and an end to classes by late November. 'Please note that the campus will not close after Thanksgiving break, the residence halls will be open, etc. — we simply will not have face-to-face instruction after Thanksgiving,' wrote Purdue Provost Jay Akridge. At this point, most colleges have not spelled out the details of their plans for the fall, for example the University of Florida will have task forces report back on various options by June 1. While the schedules for colleges and universities might have a higher profile, there are also many parents wondering whether their kids will have regular instruction in elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide. 'We can't count on a vaccine or a dramatic treatment success,' said former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. 'Schools are important. Keeping them closed will cause health, educational, economic, and societal harms.' Some jurisdictions have already floated the idea of having more in-person teaching for elementary school students, while junior and senior high schools would focus more energy on online learning. But much of that is still to be determined by hundreds of school districts around the country. When it comes to colleges, one unknown is whether there will be sports this fall - especially football. Back in 1918, both World War I and the flu outbreak in the United States caused havoc with the college football schedule. For example, the University of Nebraska and Notre Dame had to set three different dates for a football clash, before finally holding their game late in November of 1918.

News

  • Dozens of tombstones dating from the 19th century were found near a North Carolina neighborhood. A Piedmont Natural Gas worker told WSOC-TV that he found dozens of what appeared to be decades-old tombstones in a wooded area behind the Crestdale Crossing neighborhood. The stones appear to be from the 19th century and have what looks like dates and initials carved in them. The discovery piqued the interest of local historian Jeff Houser who said burial grounds are often lost to developments. Houser believes they are footstones created for a family grave. “These were either pulled up from someplace and set into the woods for some reason,” he said. He said the stones might have never been used, but it would take some time to uncover the truth. “We’d like to know why are these are here, how they got there and who are they for,” Houser said. Historians are working to compare the initials on the stones with census records from that time. Houser said that as of now, there is no official record of a cemetery in the area.
  •  A restaurant owned by rapper 2 Chainz has been cited by the state for violating social distancing guidelines. According to an incident report from the Department of Public Safety, a manager for Escobar Restaurant and Tapas was cited after public safety officials received complaints that there were too many people inside the restaurant and bar, violating the state’s executive orders over the coronavirus. DPS said it responded to the first complaint early Saturday after people called them saying that the restaurant and bar were too full. “When I enter the establishment, the entire facility was full of patrons, shoulder to shoulder, and was unable to enter safely,” the DPS officer wrote in the incident report. The public safety officer said he gave a warning to the manager on duty that night and the manager had everyone leave for the evening. The next night, DPS said it received another social distancing complaint about Escobar. “Once I entered the facility, I observed the same violations as I did when the warning was issued,” the officer wrote in the incident report. The on-duty manager, Rasheed Gaines, had security personnel make everyone leave, and the DPS officer cited Gaines for violating the state’s executive order. “When speaking to Mr. Gaines, he was aware of my previous warning as he was at the location the time it was given,” the DPS officer wrote in the report. Escobar Restaurant and Tapas, owned by Tauheed “2 Chainz” Epps and Mychel “Snoop” Dillard, is in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hills neighborhood near Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena. Epps delayed the reopening of the restaurant when Gov. Brian Kemp originally announced that dine-in service could restart. He originally was going to reopen at that time but opted to hold off. He also contacted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to tell her about the decision. Bottoms spoke about it on the Tamron Hall Show last month. “I know that 2Chainz and his wife, Keisha, have a loving heart for a community which is unparalleled. For them, you’re talking about laying off 80% of his employees,” Bottoms said. “I was so glad that he reached out to me and told me that he would not be opening because he is listening to reason and logic. What he is saying is, ‘I’m not going to risk putting my employees in harm’s way because we are opening up too soon.’” Instead of reopening right away, Epps helped feed the area’s homeless. The restaurant later reopened after Kemp signed a new executive order that said restaurants could have limited dine-in service and allowed up to 10 people at one table. The order also said occupancy was limited to 10 people for every 300 square feet inside the restaurant. According to its website, Escobar features “a beautiful bar, elegant lounging, and a menu featuring a choice wine and champagne selection, innovative cocktails, craft beers and undoubtedly the most desired tapas and entrees.”
  • An inebriated man passed out on a raft and floated 7 miles down an Indiana river before he was rescued by authorities as he approached a dam. The man, who has not been identified, was passed out with a bottle of rum on his lap, MLive reported. Department of Natural Resources officers first found the man but were unable to awaken him while they shouted and blew a whistle from an embankment along the Blue River. Officers later used a boat and set up a tagline in order to stop the man from going over the Milltown Dam. However, the man had washed ashore a few miles before the dam. Authorities found the man. After a medical evaluation, he was arrested. Charges were not released.
  • Veteran actor Richard Herd, who played Mr. Wilhelm on the television sitcom “Seinfeld,' died Tuesday at this Los Angeles home, Variety reported. He was 87. The cause of death was cancer-related, Herd’s wife, actress Patricia Crowder Herd, told The Hollywood Reporter. On “Seinfeld,” Herd played Mr. Wilhelm, the New York Yankees executive who was the boss of George Costanza (Jason Alexander), was who the team’s assistant to the traveling secretary. Herd was the second “Seinfeld” character actor to die this month. Comedian Jerry Stiller, who played Costanza’s father on the show, died May 11. Stiller was 92. Some of Herd’s movie credits include roles in “The China Syndrome” (1979) “F.I.S.T.” (1979), “The Onion Field” (1979), “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987) and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (1997). He also starred as the Klingon L’Kor on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and Admiral Owen Paris on “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Renegades.”
  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s office has confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice has closed an investigation into recent stock trades made on her behalf. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Loeffler is among the senators who are no longer under scrutiny. The others are Sens. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Dianne Feinstein of California. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina remains under investigation, according to that report. Loeffler’s portfolio came under scrutiny when a large amount of stocks that she or her husband owned were sold off shortly after she attended a senators-only briefing on the coronavirus and during the time that the virus began to spread across the country. She said that the Jan. 24 meeting included no private information and all stocking trading on her behalf is handled by financial advisers who act independently and without her input.  Loeffler denied that any trading on her behalf had broken laws or U.S. Senate rules. A campaign spokesman said Tuesday that the investigation has shown that the criticism was fueled by politics. “Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along– she did nothing wrong,” spokesman Stephen Lawson said. “This was a politically-motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents. Senator Loeffler will continue to focus her full attention on delivering results for Georgians.” A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment on the investigation. Loeffler initially refused to admit she was under investigation. Earlier this month, she said  she had turned over documents to federal investigators. But she would not say if she had volunteered or was asked to supply information or if she had been questioned.  Loeffler and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, have already taken steps to address the controversy about stock trading on their behalf during the COVID-19 pandemic. They directed their consultants to sell off stocks they own in individual companies. The only company’s shares they still own are Intercontinental Exchange, the conglomerate that Sprecher founded and now leads.  Loeffler worked for the company until she was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Although the threat of an investigation seems to be over, Loeffler should still expect to face questions about her portfolio on the campaign trail, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said. Collins is challenging Loeffler for her Senate seat in November’s special election. 'Her expensive lawyers might keep her from going to prison,” Collins spokesman Dan McLagan said, “but she's not going back to the U.S. Senate because we all know what she did.” This article was originally published on the ajc.com
  • The video is heartbreaking and chilling. Security footage from a Florida condominium complex shows the moment a woman, identified by authorities as 45-year-old Patricia Ripley, first tried to drown her son Thursday evening in a canal in West Kendall, an unincorporated area of Miami. Alejandro Ripley, 9, had severe autism and was nonverbal. Ripley holds Alejandro’s hand in the video, which was first obtained by Spanish-language television station Univision. She appears to caress his face and head and rub his back. Moments later, the footage shows Ripley take the boy by the arm and shove him into the canal, located behind the Kendall Acres Condominiums, before running away. She looks back several times over her shoulder as she vanishes out of the camera’s view. Watch the video of Alejandro Ripley’s near-drowning below, courtesy of Univision. Warning: The footage may be disturbing to some viewers. Several seconds later, she returns into the video frame with one of multiple bystanders who authorities later said rushed to Alejandro’s aid after hearing screaming. The man is seen lowering himself into the water to pull the boy to safety. Alejandro appeared unhurt, so no one called police or paramedics, authorities said. He and his mother walked away. About an hour later, Alejandro was dead. According to Miami-Dade County detectives and prosecutors, Ripley took the 9-year-old to a second canal near the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club and, with no witnesses to save him that time, shoved him once again into the water. Alejandro’s body – clad in a blue Captain America T-shirt and a diaper – was found floating in the canal Friday morning. The boy had previously been a student at Great Heights Academy, a Miami-area school for children with special needs. Miami-Dade County civil court records show the school sued Patricia Ripley and her husband, Aldo Ripley, in 2016 for more than $4,000 in unpaid tuition for their son. It was not clear when Alejandro had last attended the school but the Miami Herald reported that he was being tutored at home at the time of his death. The school’s administrators shared on Facebook both the news of his alleged abduction and the subsequent news of his slaying. “Ale, we will forever miss you,” a post on the school’s Facebook page read. It was accompanied by a video of Alejandro working with a teacher. “Praying you rest in peace.” A Miami-Dade County medical examiner told WPLG in Miami on Tuesday that the boy’s autopsy confirmed he drowned. His mother has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree premeditated murder, prosecutors said. A witness who lives at the condo complex told WPLG he saw Alejandro in the canal behind his home but didn’t think much of it. “Kids fall in the canal all the time,” said the witness, who declined to speak on camera. “Usually, you grab them, yank them out and away you go.” Alejandro appeared to be seated in water that was chest deep, the man said. “The only odd thing was she kind of started screaming and called his name, and then turned around and ran off screaming,” the man told the news station. 'He was just sitting there, and I tried to speak to him a couple of times and he looked at me, and that’s when she returned with an older couple. ”At the time, I thought they were together because that woman was giving it to her, screaming, ‘What are you doing? Why’d you leave the kid there?‘” The witness described the bystanders pulling Alejandro from the water. Video footage shows them drying the boy off before he and his mother leave. “Unfortunately, when she took him to the second canal, there was no one there,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press on Saturday. “She tried it once, and people rescued him. He was alive. He could have stayed alive. She intended, from all the facts of the case, to kill him.” Because he was nonverbal, Alejandro could not tell his rescuers how he ended up in the canal near the condo community, Fernandez Rundle said. “We talk about children being voiceless. This is another level of voicelessness,” the prosecutor told the AP. “He was incapable of saying, ‘Mommy put me in the water.’” Miami-Dade County Jail records show Ripley is being held without bond. Aldo Ripley sobbed Friday as he spoke to reporters following his wife’s bond hearing. “We love Alejandro, and we don’t agree with whatever they said about my wife,” a masked Aldo Ripley said through tears. “It’s not real.” Watch Aldo Ripley speak below and hear from Patricia Ripley’s attorney, courtesy of the Herald. It was not immediately clear if the boy’s father has seen the evidence against his wife. Patricia Ripley’s attorney, Nelson Rodriguez-Varela, told reporters outside the courtroom that he would not discuss any evidence in the case but would “leave that for another day.” “There is obviously a great deal of support for her,” Rodriguez-Varela said. “Everybody’s very concerned about her situation. “By all accounts, she has been an excellent mother, an excellent person, a great family as you can see from the people who are here.” The defense attorney said he is amassing a legal team to ensure his client’s rights are protected and she has the “opportunity to vindicate her good name.” Alejandro’s killing has provoked outrage in Florida and across the country, not only because of the circumstances of his death but also because of the nature of Ripley’s initial story to police. She claimed two black men had run her off the road and abducted her son at knifepoint, authorities said. “The only voice in his life that he depended on to get through this world was his mom’s,” Miami-Dade police Director Alfredo Ramirez said Friday during a news conference. “To think that voice would be the one that would harm him the most. “As a parent and as a member of this community, I’m deeply saddened for what happened to that young boy. And then for her to displace blame of her crime on another community, it’s just … well, another crime that was committed. It is very disappointing.” According to an affidavit in the case, Ripley called 911 shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday and reported that she and Alejandro had been traveling near a Home Depot in West Kendall when her vehicle was sideswiped, causing her to crash. She claimed the driver of the other car got out and approached her vehicle with a knife, demanding drugs before opening the front driver’s side door and stealing her cellphone and tablet. “She stated this male then removed her 9-year-old autistic child and fled in an unknown direction,” the affidavit says. Ripley was taken to the police station for questioning, according to the document. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials issued an Amber Alert for Alejandro. The alert described Ripley’s alleged assailants as “two unknown black males driving an unknown light blue four-door sedan.” “One of the abductors may be wearing all black clothing and a black bandanna as a face mask,” the alert said. “He may also have cornrows in his hair.” At the police station, Ripley gave “conflicting statements” to missing persons detectives, the affidavit states. The case was transferred to homicide detectives when Alejandro’s body was found, about 11 hours after he was first reported missing and 4 miles from the scene of the alleged abduction. Ripley was taken from the missing persons bureau to the homicide division for additional questioning. Again, she gave conflicting statements, the affidavit says. “These statements contradicted the statements of witnesses and the video footage obtained from the area of SW 103rd Avenue and Kendall Drive,” the document states. The footage described in the affidavit matches the surveillance video obtained by Univision. The Herald reported that security camera footage from outside the Home Depot near where Ripley claimed Alejandro had been kidnapped showed Ripley sitting alone in her car for 20 minutes before she called 911 to report him missing. Witnesses also told police they’d seen Ripley with her son near the canal where he was eventually found dead, CBS Miami reported. When confronted with the evidence, Ripley admitted she had not been robbed, the affidavit says. “She admitted that she drove to SW 62(nd) Street and SW 138(th) Court at approximately 8:30 p.m. and parked near a canal,” the document states. “She then led the victim to the canal, where he drowned. “She stated he’s going to be in a better place.” The CBS affiliate reported that a law enforcement official said Ripley told detectives she’d been thinking about killing her son for a while because the older he got, the more difficult he was to physically control. According to the Amber Alert, Alejandro weighed 120 pounds and was 4 feet, 11 inches tall. Miami-Dade County Jail records show that Ripley weighs 138 pounds. She is 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Since Alejandro’s death, at least one Miami-area support group for special needs children and their families has seen an uptick in calls from parents whose children are in crisis. Rabbi Yossi Harlig, co-director of Friendship Circle Miami, told the Herald the boy’s killing has rippled through the community as the nation deals with the deadly COVID-19 outbreak, which had killed more than 98,000 Americans as of Tuesday morning. The social distancing required to help stem the spread of the virus has placed already-struggling families in even more tense situations as they shelter in place and parents homeschool their children. “One of the concerns is that when someone acts like that, it could trigger other people. You never know,” Harlig told the Herald. “Typical families are feeling overwhelmed. Imagine if you’re raising a child with special needs.” In a Facebook video posted on the Friendship Circle’s profile, Harlig described the love and caretaking provided by the parents of most special needs children as “something that is like the work of angels.” With that love, however, comes pain, worry and an often overwhelming challenge. He begged those feeling that challenge to reach out for help. Friendship Circle Miami, which held a memorial service for Alejandro on Friday and has an online town hall meeting planned for Wednesday night, is implementing a hotline service for overwhelmed parents, the rabbi told the Herald. The group is also hoping to establish group therapy or child care centers to help families cope. “One thing that people always tell us is that they feel very isolated and alone, and there’s nowhere to turn to,” Harlig said. “One of the big things that people need is a respite, to have a place where they can drop off their child for a few hours and they can take a break.” The Lifeline Project will be launched in the days and weeks ahead, Harlig said on the organization’s Facebook page. “If anyone who cares for a person with special needs feels they are in crisis, they can reach us at 305-234-5654 or rebyossi@friendshipcirclemiami.org,” the page states. In Friday’s news conference outside Fernandez Rundle’s office, the prosecutor said nothing is worse than the death of a child. “The death of a child is tragic; the killing of a child is horrific,” the prosecutor said. Fernandez Rundle praised the work of Miami-Dade County detectives, who she said combed the community for evidence and witnesses and quickly established the truth of the case. “The tragic loss of the life of a 9-year-old boy, and the loss, really, of any young life, leaves all of us grieving,” Fernandez Rundle said. “This boy’s senseless, senseless death will stay with all of us, just as his bright smile that shines out from the photographs we’ve all seen.” Harlig said in a statement that his organization’s leaders are shocked and saddened by Alejandro’s death. “No child should ever be in this position, especially a child with special needs who cannot call out for help,” the rabbi said. “We all grieve for Alejandro and his family.”