When Mother’s Day dawned, it found Rafaelle Alessandra Carbalho Sousa in the Palm Beach County Jail on charges of attempted felony murder and child abuse. In a hospital 30 miles south is the newborn daughter police say she tried to kill early Wednesday morning.
The Boca Raton mother wrapped the infant in a trash bag and placed her in the dumpster of her apartment complex, police say.
On Saturday afternoon, in her dim, cool apartment, all seemed as if she had simply stepped out: clean dishes stacked by the kitchen sink, a pound cake freshly sliced, nail polish bottles lined up on her work table, her young son’s stroller parked just outside.
But the man who answered the front door told a story that shattered any semblance of normalcy.
Carlos Jimenes, the boyfriend who moved here with Sousa from their native Brazil 10 years ago, says Wednesday’s events have left him stunned and devastated. First there was the discovery of the discarded baby he says he didn’t know was on the way, much less delivered. Then there was Sousa’s shocking confession. And, finally, the heartbreaking moment when he watched child welfare officials spirit away their sleeping, 3-year-old son.
“I feel two ways about her (Sousa) right now: I feel terribly sorry for her. And I feel furious at her,” Jimenes told The Post in Spanish during an interview. “Why? Why didn’t she tell me? I never would have let this happen. That little baby is my daughter. I never would have allowed her to be thrown away or even given away.”
Jimenes, who works for a landscaping company by day, says he could not tell Sousa was pregnant. The 35-year-old woman wore loose clothing, he says. Besides, she often wore a thick band around her waist to help ease recurring back aches, he said.
The hectic pace of their lives didn’t help, either; Jimenes says he would leave by 7 a.m. each day for his full-time job, then take online courses at night. He would perform in a local samba band on some weekends and frequently participate in church activities.
In the predawn hours when he now believes the baby was delivered in the guest bathroom of their two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, he says he was asleep in their shared bed, unaware that Sousa was not there. When he brushed by her in the kitchen, just before leaving for work Wednesday morning, he says she was busy “doing her usual morning routine,” preparing breakfast, tidying up.
It was only after he got home that the shocking revelations hit with a flurry of police activity.
“She (Sousa) was sitting right there and she turns to me and says, ‘I did it.’ She confessed to me. She said, ‘This is my problem, not yours.’ I tell her, ‘What did you do?’ Then I went to tell the police,” says Jimenes, who has not been allowed to see his son or the newborn girl he says is his baby.
He has spent his waking hours trying to make sense of the events leading up to Wednesday, he says. Did Sousa hide her pregnancy or was she unaware that she was pregnant? He says he does not know what to think.
“The other night, we went out and we had a few drinks. Later, she got sick and was throwing up. I ask myself why she would be drinking if she knew she was pregnant?” he says. “Either she didn’t know or she was a horrible person.”
He also wonders if Sousa believed she had a stillbirth. “She said the baby did not cry. She waited to see if the baby reacted, but it did not. That’s what she said when the police was here that day. I really don’t know,” says Jimenes.
He notes their roommate, a woman who sleeps in the guest room, said she heard nothing that night, either. The woman was not home when a reporter visited the apartment on Saturday.
There may be uncertainties in his mind surrounding Sousa’s story, but Jimenes says this much is clear: He wants custody of both his children.
“They are my priorities,” he says.
He showed a reporter an upbeat photo of his small family in better days: Jimenes, Sousa and their young son, all smiles.
“We had a good life. We worked hard. We always had our necessities. There was never a lack of food here. We could have welcomed a baby,” he said.
When you ask him if the baby has a name yet, he hangs his head and closes his eyes, seemingly overwhelmed. The details of his quiet home, the prayerful references and clustered toys, seem to swell in the silence.
“I want to name her Sara. It’s a beautiful name,” he says. “It’s gentle and normal.”