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Crime News Breaking News

Two Accused Of Kidnapping San Jose Baby Face New Charges For Earlier Alleged Attempts

Yesenia Ramirez and Jose Portillo, accused of kidnapping 3-month-old Brandon Cuellar in San Jose last month, now face new charges for earlier alleged attempts to kidnap the boy.

By Megan Carpentier
Kidnapped Baby Brandon Cuellar

Two people who were already facing charges in the April kidnapping of a 3-month-old baby now face new charges that they made three prior attempts to abduct the boy.

Yesenia Ramirez, 43, and Jose Portillo, 28, were arrested on April 26 in the kidnapping of Brandon Cuellar the previous day. Cuellar was rescued by police shortly before the arrests were announced.

Prosecutors now say that it wasn't Ramirez and Portillo's first attempt to remove the baby from his family.

In a statement released Thursday by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, prosecutors say the two will be charged with three prior attempted kidnappings, including one on the morning of the actual abduction.

Prosecutors say that Ramirez — who Brandon Cuellar's grandmother believed to be her friend — and Portillo attempted to kidnap Brandon on March 14, March 28 and earlier in the day on April 25 before ultimately snatching him around 1:00 p.m. on April 25.

They allege that Portillo went to Brandon Cuellar's home on March 14 and, with Ramirez present, claimed to be an employee with Child Protective Services who was there to take custody of Brandon. His family called the agency, which denied having sent a worker, and Portillo left.

It is unclear if that interaction was previously reported to authorities outside of CPS or what, if anything, the agency did about it.

Prosecutors further allege that on March 28, Ramirez accompanied Brandon and his grandmother on a shopping trip to Walmart, where Portillo was waiting. Their plan, authorities say, was to switch Brandon's grandmother's cart to allow Portillo to leave with Brandon, but they failed.

Then, on the morning of April 25, Ramirez allegedly again accompanied Brandon and his grandmother to Walmart in an effort to make off with the child, but the two were unable to distract Brandon's grandmother for long enough to kidnap the baby.

The two were more successful that afternoon, according to police and prosecutors at the time of their arrest.

Brandon's grandmother told police at the time that she and her supposed friend — now identified as Ramirez — had gone to Walmart in the morning and returned home around noon. 

"According to grandmother, she came home to this apartment located in the 1000 block of Elm Street, she took the baby in the apartment, went downstairs to unload some groceries," San Jose Police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said in a press conference after the kidnapping. "In that short amount of time, someone entered the apartment … and this person left with the baby."

They later said that a woman, Ramirez, was with the grandmother and her story had changed multiple times.

Police said that the suspect who took Brandon, now identified as Portillo, brought his own baby carrier, walked into Brandon's grandmother's apartment and walked off with the child.

Brandon's mother and grandmother told police at the time that they didn't recognize the alleged kidnapper, but he was wearing a face mask in the surveillance pictures police were able to obtain.

“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 the Thursday 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.”

A statement of facts issued in the case and obtained by NBC News said that Ramirez and Portillo were discovered to have stocked up on baby clothes, diapers and formula, despite not having any infant children living with them.

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