Sanford parents face judge after their son, 3, drowns in apartment complex retention pond

SANFORD, Fla. — Police in Sanford said a 3-year-old boy died Saturday after he was pulled from a retention pond at an apartment complex.


Investigators said the boy’s parents -- Barbara Ruiz and Lester Ortiz -- are responsible for his death.

Police said they arrived at about 3:15 p.m. Saturday to the The Crosby at Towne Center Apartments at Towne Center Boulevard and St. Johns Parkway after being notified that a boy with autism was missing.

Ortiz said his son, Ethan Ortiz-Ruiz, was missing for about 30 minutes, according to a report.

Police said when they arrived at the home, they noticed a strong smell of marijuana and that Ortiz and Luiz had bloodshot eyes.

Watch: Police: Parents arrested after 3-year-old dies following rescue from Sanford pond

Ruiz told law enforcement she had heard a door open and close and asked her 15-year-old daughter to check on it.

Detectives said the boy had been reported missing twice before and was found roaming around the apartment complex by neighbors.

On Saturday, the boy was found floating in a retention pond near the apartment.

Paramedics took the child to a hospital, where he died.

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Ruiz and Ortiz told investigators they had medical marijuana cards and regularly smoked.

Both were arrested on charges of negligent aggravated manslaughter of a child.

Ruiz and Ortiz faced a Seminole County judge Monday afternoon.

The judge set each suspect’s bond at $25,000.

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“It happened on a number of occasions. And on top of that, the child in the previous occasion was found wading through that same retention pond,” Sanford police spokeswoman Bianca Gillett told Channel 9 on Monday. “The parents still chose not to make take extra measures to ensure the safety of their child.”

Gillett said the previous incident happened March 17.

Records indicate that there have been several other incidents involving the couple and their children in other parts of Central Florida.

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Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2014. He serves as the station's Digital Executive Producer.

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