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Stepmother speaks on stepdaughter’s mental health after Valrico alligator attack

Shayla Silva’s body was found in a retention pond over the weekend. Her cause of death is unconfirmed, but presumed to be an alligator attack.
Shayla Silva's body was found in a retention pond in Valrico over July 4th weekend.
Shayla Silva's body was found in a retention pond in Valrico over July 4th weekend. [ Courtesy of Mary Simspon ]
Published Jul. 7, 2021

Mary Simpson posted a heartfelt goodbye Monday to her stepdaughter on Facebook. She wrote about watching Shayla Silva sing Shania Twain’s Any Man of Mine and said her tears were flowing with each call and visit from friends and family.

The body of Silva, 29, — known to many as Shayla Simpson, Mary Simpson said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times — was found July 4 in a Valrico retention pond less than a mile from Simpson’s house with bite marks from an alligator, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. Sheriff’s deputies and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission are investigating.

Deputies said Tuesday that while alligator bites are not the confirmed cause of death, alligators are known to frequent that pond. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said Tuesday that it had brought a nuisance alligator trapper to the scene.

A Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s spokesperson said Tuesday that the cause and manner of Silva’s death are still pending.

Mary Simpson said her stepdaughter spent years dealing with bipolar and paranoia disorders. She spent time going in and out of treatment centers, but Mary Simpson said she often felt like she couldn’t help her stepdaughter.

Silva did not like to take pills, Simpson said, which led her to relapse after coming out of treatment centers. Silva left the house often, had trouble sleeping and was drawn to water, her stepmother said. She swam in the pond frequently and was a good swimmer.

Michael Edge of the Valrico Tutoring Club, located on Lynx Paw Trail next to the pond, said he has never seen anyone approaching the pond, let alone swimming in it. He said neither he nor his staff have seen an alligator.

“Learning that it was an alligator is pretty scary, but luckily I’ve never heard of them leaving the pond,” Edge said.

He added that there are no precautions in place for students at the Tutoring Club. None of the students get close to the pond to need them.

Simpson said she wanted to tell the story of her daughter’s mental health struggles in hopes that no other family will have to experience the pain she said she feels.

“That was just your cocoon in the pond,” Simpson wrote to Silva in her post. “Spread your wings beautiful butterfly. Fly away!”

Simpson set up a GoFundMe in Silva’s honor to help pay for the costs of a memorial service.

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