Woman's body found in Valrico pond with apparent alligator bite marks, deputies say

An investigation is underway to figure out if an alligator may have led to the death of 29-year-old Shayla Silva. Just before 9 o'clock Sunday night, her body was pulled from a retention pond on Lynx Paw Trail near the River Hills subdivision in Valrico.

"She was her own person. A lot of people loved her," said Silva's stepmom, Mary Simpson.

As Simpson explains, her stepdaughter had mental health struggles. Simpson says she was just days away from starting a new mental health treatment plan after weeks of trying to get her the right help. However, the family says HIPAA laws slowed down the process.

"I think if we could have went ahead and starting the shots like discussed and was hoped for before her release, I don't think we would be going through this," Simpson said.

Silva struggled with depression and because of it was naturally drawn to water. Simpson admits on multiple occasions Silva swam in the pond across the street from their home.

"We really tried to keep our eyes on what she was doing. But yes, when she would get away from us, she would be walking down and go to the pond," Simpson continued.

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Monday, investigators with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office confirmed Silva's injuries were consistent with an alligator attack.

"This is a very hard, heartbreaking tragedy and I really don't want to see nobody else go through this," Simpson said.

Simpson hopes to give a voice to those who face difficulties getting their loved one -- who's in pain -- the right mental health treatment. Right now, she says the process is too slow and needs improvements.

"I wish I knew how we could do a change to the HIPAA law when it involves a loved one so that we can be able to help them instead of having our hands tied," she added.

Trappers have been out to the pond and set up traps in hopes of catching the alligator responsible.