SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Baby Brandon Cuellar was targeted by kidnappers in three separates incidents, Santa Clara County prosecutors said Thursday.
Jose Ramon Portillo and Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez staged multiple kidnapping attempts in San Jose, including one when Portillo posed as a fake Child Protective Services worker who demanded to take custody of the baby, according to investigators.
In the fake CPS kidnapping attempt, the baby’s family was suspicious, and refused to hand the 3-month-old infant over.
“There are few things more terrifying than someone stealing a child, as if they’re a car or wallet. The more we investigate this case … the more troubling it gets,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Thursday.
Portillo, 28, and Ramirez, 43, thought they finally pulled off their kidnapping scheme on April 25, investigators said. In broad daylight, a mysterious man walked into baby Brandon’s grandmother’s apartment while she was busy unloading groceries from her car with Ramirez.
The grandmother was babysitting Brandon while his mother was at work, and Ramirez was a “family friend,” police said.
When the grandmother returned to her apartment, the baby was gone.
Surveillance cameras recorded the mysterious man carrying the Infant away in a car seat covered with a baby blanket. The grandmother had no idea who the may was and alerted police.
The April 25 kidnapping sparked a frantic search across San Jose.
Investigators with the San Jose Police Department and FBI uncovered evidence showing Ramirez had gone shopping with the grandmother at Walmart and used her cellphone to communicate with Portillo.
Police became suspicious of Ramirez when she gave inconsistent statements when they questioned her.
Baby Brandon was found unharmed 24 hours later inside Portillo’s house. Police found baby care supplies, including diapers and formula for making bottles, and a baby rocker in his house. Neither Portillo nor Ramirez have any children of their own.
“This was not the first time they tried to kidnap the baby boy,” prosecutors wrote. “About a month-and-a-half before the kidnapping a man showed up at the child’s home and identified himself as a CPS worker. The family decided to call CPS who stated that they had not sent anyone to take Brandon. Ramirez was present at the victim’s home when this happened.”
New evidence also revealed that Ramirez and Portillo planned to kidnap Brandon at a local Walmart twice, once on March 28 and again on April 25, according to prosecutors. Both Walmart kidnapping attempts failed.
“In the first attempt, they were unable to switch shopping carts in an effort for Portillo to leave the store with Brandon. On the second occasion, were unable to distract Brandon’s grandmother,” prosecutors wrote.
This breaking news story will be updated. Check back for updates.