SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Another strange twist happened in court Friday for an already bizarre baby kidnapping case in San Jose.
A woman who pleaded no contest to kidnapping Baby Brandon from his grandmother’s home is now claiming that she was forced to commit the crime by someone who held a gun to her head.
Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez told probation officers that her estranged husband held a gun to her head and forced her to help snatch the 3-month-old infant, prosecutors revealed in court Friday.
“Ms. Ramirez has continuously lied throughout this proceeding. First to police, and now to probation,” Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise told the judge.
Wise highlighted a mountain of evidence already presented in court during last summer’s preliminary hearing that proved Ramirez was the sole “mastermind” behind the kidnapping, according to prosecutors. Ramirez met the infant and his family through their church.
Ramirez convinced one of her boyfriends, Jose Portillo, to help her kidnap the baby, investigators said. Evidence included text messages between Ramirez and Portillo exchanged before and during the kidnapping, as well as several attempted kidnapping. Brandon’s grandmother called police on April 25, 2022 reporting that the infant had vanished from her apartment.
Portillo was recorded on neighbors’ surveillance cameras carrying Brandon away in a car seat. When police showed the grandmother the surveillance video, she had no idea who the man was.
On April 26, 2022, a frantic search effort across the city ended when San Jose police found the baby unharmed inside Portillo’s bedroom.
Ramirez and Portillo, pleaded no contest to all charges at the preliminary hearing. They have remained in jail ever since, however, the duo has yet to be sentenced to prison because of multiple sentencing hearing delays.
Ramirez’s estranged husband was in fact arrested by San Jose police officers on the same day that Brandon was found. He was quickly released from custody, and no charges were ever filed against him, because investigators concluded he was not involved in the kidnapping.
While awaiting sentencing, Ramirez made hundreds of jail phone calls that were recorded. In her phone conversations, Ramirez also apparently denied guilt.
No one forced Ramirez to do anything, Wise said. “She said her husband threatened her and made her commit this crime. That statement is not true,” Wise told the judge.
Ramirez’s defense attorney, Cody Salfen, said he needs more time before sentencing, and prosecutors have not told him how the jail phone calls are relevant to the case.
Wise said the District Attorney’s Office is required to provide copies of the jail calls to the defense, but not required to outline relevance. “It would be outside the interest of justice to provide Ms. Ramirez with a road map on how to continue to create lies in this case,” Wise told the judge.
Police Chief Anthony Mata previously described the kidnapping incident as “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
Police said the motive behind the bizarre kidnapping was a love triangle. Portillo, 28, was in love with Ramirez, 43, so he agreed to help her steal someone else’s baby, a San Jose Police Department officer testified. Portillo had never met Brandon nor his family.
Ramirez’s motive was to cover up a lie she told to her second boyfriend, Francisco Marquez, the officer testified. She allegedly told Marquez that she had recently given birth to his son, and she promised to bring the baby home from the hospital on April 25, the same day as the kidnapping, according to police.
In court documents, Ramirez’s defense attorney outlined reason why the sentencing hearing should be delayed until March.
Defense attorneys wrote, “Ms. Ramirez’s early acceptance of responsibility, along with the 14-year … maximum possible sentence, leave the court with a wide range of sentencing option. It is defense counsel’s goal and duty to empower the court with supplemental information (including mitigating information) in order for the court to make a fully informed sentencing decision – a decision that will, for better or for worse, change the course of Ms. Ramirez’s life. The court’s ultimate decision is not exclusively based upon the allegations and charges to which Ms. Ramirez pled, but will also be based upon mitigating factors and information, likely to include mental and physical health related information, evidence that was gathered but not presented during the preliminary examination, social and familial history, and other data.”
Ramirez’s new claim of innocence is inappropriate, prosecutors said Friday, because she already pleaded no contest and surrendered her right to a trial.
“This is not the time to raise an affirmative defense. Both defendants entered no contest pleas to every single charge,” Wise said in court.
The judge then asked Ramirez, who speaks Spanish, if she understood that she gave up her right to a trial. Ramirez answered through a Spanish language interpreter, “Yes.” The judge asked Ramirez if she was able to speak with her attorney before entering her plea. Ramirez answered, “Yes.”
The judge granted the defense’s motion to delay the sentencing hearing. Portillo and Ramirez will now be sentenced on March 20 in Santa Clara County Hall of Justice. Portillo is facing a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison. Ramirez is facing 14 years.