A 44-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man in California are facing multiple years in prison after pleading no contest on Tuesday to a series of felonies in connection with the “bizarre kidnapping” of a 3-month-old boy in April.
Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez and Jose Roman Portillo were charged with kidnapping young Brandon Cuellar from his grandmother’s apartment in broad daylight, according to the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office.
The pair on Tuesday pleaded no contest to charges of kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, burglary, conspiracy, and vehicular tampering, according to multiple reports. Following the no contest pleas, Judge Nona Klippen reportedly said that Ramirez would face a maximum of 14 years in prison and Portillo would face a maximum of five years when they are sentenced later this year. Both were previously facing more than 16 years in detention.
According to the DA’s office, Brandon’s grandmother was watching him on April 25 when Ramirez — a family friend — brought her to Walmart to go shopping. When they returned home, the grandmother put Brandon on a bed to go get her things out of the car and when she returned the child was gone.
Investigators obtained security camera footage showing a man — later identified as Portillo — walk into the apartment located in the 1000 block of Elm Street carrying a car seat covered with a blanket.
The suspect is shown leaving the apartment moments later with “a noticeably heavier car seat.” Authorities were able to identify the vehicle he drove and traced it back to Ramirez.
Police on April 26 arrested Portillo at his home in the 2000 block of Mathers Street and recovered Brandon inside, unharmed.
During preliminary hearings that took place Monday and Tuesday, testimony revealed the bizarre circumstances that prosecutors say led to Ramirez and Portillo attempting and failing to kidnap Brandon four times prior to April 25 in an effort to convince a third man, Francisco Marquez, that he’d fathered a child with Ramirez, KRON-TV reported. Both Portillo and Marquez were reportedly in love with Ramirez.
Ramirez reportedly lied to Marquez, telling him that she had given birth to a child on March 3 and claiming that he was the father. She allegedly began plotting to kidnap Brandon so she could tell Marquez he was their son. Ramirez then convinced Portillo to help her with the kidnapping, who at one point dressed up as a CPS agent and tried to convince Brandon’s mother that the department was taking Brandon away from her for his safety, according to the report.
According to the report, Brandon’s mother Jessica Ayala met Ramirez through members of their Pentecostal church, Iglesia Apostoles y Profetas — the same church where earlier this year a 3-year-old girl was allegedly smothered to death by members of her family attempted to perform an exorcism on the child. But their relationship soured when Ramirez in early April said she was taking Brandon shopping for an hour but did not return with the child until the following morning.
The ruse reportedly worked on Marquez, who called 911 after seeing reports of the kidnapping on TV and asked police why his girlfriend had been arrested for kidnapping their own child. He reportedly said that the pictures being shown on the TV reports were the same photos Ramirez had shown him and claimed to be of their son.
“He was very frustrated and confused (when) he contacted police believing he was the father of this child,” Police Det. Catherine Van Brande reportedly said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Ramirez also reportedly had a third boyfriend cut the brake lines on Ayala’s car, resulting in the vehicular tampering charge.
“Given all of the circumstances, it was the perfect storm for them to accept the offer,” Cody Salfen, an attorney representing Ramirez, reportedly told San Jose NBC affiliate KNTV regarding the plea deal. “It was a reasonable offer from the judge in the eyes of my client.”
The District Attorney’s Office and Salfen attorney did not immediately respond to messages from Law&Crime seeking additional details in the case.
[images via Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office]
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