‘These were disgusting crimes:’ Woman with severe disabilities was abused prior to murder, detectives say

3 family members arrested in Gladys Ambert’s death

A drawing of Gladys Ambert. (Image: Orange County Sheriff's Office) (WKMG 2020)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County homicide detectives have arrested three family members after the body of a 27-year-old woman who was deaf, mute and had Cerebral palsy was found abandoned near the Valencia College campus in April.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office announced detectives had arrested the victim’s aunt Nellie Ambert, 55, who is charged with first-degree murder of a disabled person. Jasmine Ambert, 32, is charged with abuse and neglect of a disabled person and Christian Matias,18, is charged with tampering with evidence. All three suspects were arrested Monday night.

The lead detective in the case became overwhelmed talking about the severe abuse and neglect Gladys Ambert suffered prior to her death. Sgt. Joe Covelli described a couch in the family’s home that was covered in pee pads because the victim was tied there and forced to urinate and defecate on herself.

The “horror" of the victim’s life began in July 2019, according to Covelli, after Gladys Ambert’s grandmother died and she came to live with her aunt, Nellie Ambert, in Orange County.

“She was raised by her grandma, by all accounts, in a loving family,” Covelli said, until her aunt brought her to Florida.

The detective said after she arrived at her aunt’s apartment, Gladys Ambert was tied up every day and neglected either on the couch or in the bathroom. The people who lived in the apartment used ear plugs to block out Gladys Ambert’s cries, the detective said, because even though she was mute and deaf she was in a lot of pain.

From left to right: Nellie Ambert, 55, is charged with first-degree murder and other charges, Jasmine Ambert, 32, is charged with abuse and neglect of a disabled person and Christian Matias,18, is charged with tampering with evidence. (WKMG 2020)

On the morning of April 7, Nellie Ambert reported Gladys Ambert missing, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The family told detectives the woman with severe disabilities “walked away” sometimes during the night.

Around 8 p.m. that same day, a Valencia College security guard was driving by a wooded area on campus and noticed a pink blanket in the woods. After discovering the body underneath, they called 911.

“We have Gladys laying there probably about 20 feet off from the road into the wooded area with a pink blanket,” Covelli said. “It looked like she just went to sleep there.”

Covelli said detectives knew immediately “something wasn’t right.” The family continued to mislead detectives about what happened to the 27-year-old in their care, he said.

“It was very troublesome how they lied to us, how they wasted our resources,” he said. “They put on a great show.”

The victim’s body was covered in ligature marks from where she was bound, on her stomach, legs and arms. A search of the trash compactor at the family’s apartment complex detectives found the ropes, phone cords and other items used to tie Gladys Ambert.

An autopsy report revealed the 27-year-old died of positional fixation from injuries she suffered from being hit while bound, Covelli said.

“They were hitting her so hard that she fell over and she was tied up,” Covelli said, resulting in “suffocation, basically.”

The victim had a mental capacity of a 5-year-old, detectives said. Covelli said the suspects should have notified the Department of Children and Families if they didn’t know how to care for a person with special needs.

“These were disgusting crimes committed against a person who could not take care of herself,” the detective said.

She was covered in obvious signs of neglect, something Covelli said he will never forget.

“They discarded her like a piece of trash,” Covelli said.

The detective said the motive was “700 bucks a month," the money the family received from Social Security for Gladys Ambert.

The victim was living in the apartment from July 2019 until she died, according to Covelli. During that time, not one person in the apartment complex saw her there.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said the department sketch artist created a new portrait of Gladys Ambert because detectives only found one other photo of the victim.

“We had one really really bad picture of her and her entire life and our sketch artists had to redo that so that we can at least give her that honor of having to face,” Mina said.

The suspects may face additional charges as the investigation is ongoing.