The two people charged with kidnapping a 3-month-old baby in San Jose last month allegedly tried to take the boy at least three times before the actual kidnapping, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.
Yesenia Ramirez, 43, and Jose Portillo, 28, were charged with the additional kidnapping counts at a bail hearing Thursday afternoon, the district attorney's office said. A motive for the kidnapping of Brandon Cuellar remains a mystery.
Portillo is accused of taking Brandon from his grandmother's home in San Jose on April 25 while she unloaded groceries. The district attorney's office said Portillo was "in cahoots" with Ramirez, who is said to be a friend of Brandon's family and was with the grandmother helping take care of the baby on the day of the kidnapping.
"There are few things more terrifying than someone stealing a child, as if they’re a car or a wallet," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. "The more we investigate this case and the more troubling it gets, the more determined we are to prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law."
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More San Jose Kidnapping Coverage
Roughly a month and a half before the kidnapping, a man showed up at the baby's home and said he was a child protective services worker, according to the district attorney's office. The family called CPS and was told no one had been sent to take the baby.
The man claiming to be the CPS worker, later identified as Portillo, left the home after the family refused to give him the baby, the district attorney's office said. Ramirez was at the home when Portillo showed up. The pair plotted the attempt on March 14, the district attorney's office said, citing evidence.
Additional evidence showed that Portillo and Ramirez tried but failed to kidnap the baby at a local Walmart store on two separate occasions, once on March 28 and again on the morning of the actual kidnapping, according to the district attorney's office.
During the first try, Portillo and Ramirez were unable to switch shopping carts in an attempt to have Portillo leave the store with the baby. During the second attempt, the two failed to distract the baby's grandmother, according to the district attorney's office.
"It's absolutely shocking," Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise said. "This is, I think, any parent's worst nightmare. Brandon Doe’s family was going about their business, going to the store, doing their daily activities with no knowledge that there were two individuals that were consistently planning to kidnap their child."
Cody Salfen, Ramirez's lawyer, is asking people not to jump to conclusions.
"We don’t have the actual forensic results of the phone analysis," he said. "We have presumably text messages that were exchanged between two phones. We don’t know who was behind those phones. And we also have the added layer of translation from Spanish language to English language, which is often times done in a subjective manner."