A South Bay church connects one of the suspects charged with kidnapping 3-month-old Brandon Cuellar and the infant's family.
Members of the unnamed Apostolic Church in San Jose were stunned to learn Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez is accused of being involved in the crime. A man believed to be her husband, who was initially arrested in connection to the kidnapping but later released without charges, is also a member of the church, a parishioner said.
Parishioners describe the two as "decent and hard-working."
Members of the church said the couple has a grown daughter and granddaughter and would never have thought they were capable of kidnapping a child.
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But the owner of the property where the church holds services thinks differently. He said this is the second time police were there asking questions because of the church.
“I told them about it and I said, ‘Hey you guys are not supposed to be in this place anymore,’ because suddenly three things come one after another,” said Santiago Garcia, owner of the property rented by the church.
Garcia said that several months ago, police were there after the pastor's 3-year-old granddaughter passed away inside the church.
Garcia was told the child was very sick when she was taken in for parishioners to pray for, and no one ever took her to the hospital.
“She was there from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. when she passed away,” said Garcia, adding that the child's mother was arrested after her death. Police and the district attorney have not confirmed that claim to NBC Bay Area.
“I told them ‘Hey, you can’t keep a little girl inside dying if she is sick,’ you know?” Garcia said.
On Monday, police again showed up at the church, but this time as part of their search for baby Brandon.
Santiago said that between the last incident, and this kidnapping involving church members, it's all too much.
“I said again, again and again, ‘So what is going on?’ you know what I mean?” Garcia said.
Garcia confirmed that videos online described as coming from "Iglesia Apostoles Y Profetas" in San Jose showed services from the church taking place on his property. A different portion of that same property is also home to about 20 other renters.
The renters NBC Bay Area spoke with there said they did not attend the church, but saw people dropping by for services a couple of days each week. Those residents said sometimes as few as two or as many as 30 people would come for church services.
The residents also told NBC Bay Area that they had to spend Monday night outside because police were investigating and searching the property.
The property owner now believes the congregation needs to be investigated further. He said he doesn't think he will rent to the church anymore.
While one of the suspects, Ramirez, was a member of the church, as was baby Brandon’s family, nobody has been able to confirm any connection to the man who is believed to have actually taken the child, 28-year-old Jose Portillo.
Ramirez and Portillo were arraigned and charged Thursday for the kidnapping and are being held on no bail.