When Rosa Rivera arrived at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies on March 10, workers encountered a disturbing sight.
The 28-year-old Orlando woman had a self-inflicted cut on her arm, detectives say. She was wielding a purple pocket knife. Her 11-year-old daughter Aleyda was in the passenger seat, dead from more than a dozen stab wounds.
According to court documents, Rivera initially denied killing her daughter. Cops say that she later admitted to stabbing Aleyda because the girl smiled “different,” which caused Rivera to think the her daughter was having sex.
But Orange County Sheriff John Mina says that it didn’t appear that the girl was sexually active. “Our investigation revealed that Rosa Rivera killed her daughter because she wanted to prevent her from having sexual relations with men, but we believe that part of the investigation is unfounded,” Mina told reporters, according to News 13. “We are looking into that, but don’t believe it to be credible, although we are still continuing the investigation.”
But now, according to court documents, at least one school worker saw signs that Aleyda may have been afraid of her mother before she was stabbed.
In public records released by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office, a clerk at Westridge Middle School recalled an incident just two days before the stabbing.
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The unnamed clerk allegedly told investigators that Aleyda’s mother had come to the school to pull her daughter out of class. The clerk said that Rivera “seemed nervous,” according to the interview transcript. When Aleyda saw her mother, she seemed “scared” and “cowering,” the clerk alleges.
“I’ve worked here in the front office for many years,” the clerk told detectives. “I see a lot of things. “I don’t know why they didn’t call DCF because I felt something about this girl.”
The school district says that they had no indication that anything was wrong.
“At no time did any of our OCPS employees witness any signs of physical or emotional abuse,” Orange County Public Schools spokeswoman Lorena Arias told the Orlando Sentinel in an emailed statement. “Had there been any such abuse detected, DCF and the proper authorities would have been contacted immediately in accordance with our procedures.”
Rivera is being held without bond on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated manslaughter of a child. She also faces a charge of battery on a corrections officer.
Rivera has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment. She will face trial in August.
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