SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The mystery of Baby Brandon Cuellar’s whereabouts after his kidnapping was revealed by prosecutors Thursday. The 3-month-old infant was hidden for 20 hours inside his alleged kidnapper’s home at 3365 Mather Drive in San Jose, according to criminal charges filed by prosecutors.
The accused kidnapper was identified as 28-year-old Jose Ramon Portillo.
Prosecutors said Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez, a friend of the baby’s family, conspired with Portillo to kidnap the baby from his grandmother’s apartment. Portillo and Ramirez made their first court appearance Thursday afternoon in the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice.
The brazen and disturbing kidnapping set off a frantic 20-hour search by police, the FBI, and the public on Monday afternoon. San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said the incident was “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
The grandmother was babysitting her 3-month-old grandson when he was kidnapped inside her apartment. The infant’s mother was at work. His father was incarcerated and “not in the picture” of Brandon’s life, police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said.
Baby Brandon was found Tuesday morning unharmed inside Portillo’s house on Mather Drive, about five miles from where he was kidnapped on Elm Street.
Police simultaneously arrested Portillo, Ramirez, and Ramirez’s husband.
A motive behind the kidnapping has not yet been released by police and prosecutors.
“The motive behind the broad-daylight, bizarre kidnapping remains under investigation,” prosecutors wrote.
Here’s a look at the kidnapping suspects and felony charges filed against them:
Jose Ramon Portillo
Jose Ramon Portillo, 28, is the man who was recorded by a neighbor’s front door security camera walking down a sidewalk with an infant car seat on Elm Street, according to the San Jose Police Department. Police released the bizarre surveillance video immediately to the public hoping that someone could identify him.
The surveillance video footage showed that Portillo brought an infant car seat and white baby blanket to the grandmother’s apartment, and he used it to carry Baby Brandon away, police said.
The grandmother told police that she was unloading groceries when a man walked into her apartment and took Brandon. The grandmother said she had no idea who the man was.
The California Highway Patrol tweeted a photo of a van that may have been used in the kidnapping. Ramirez is the registered owner of the van.
A good Samaritan spotted the van parked outside Portillo’s home on Tuesday and called police. Police found the tiny infant and took him to a hospital to ensure he was OK.
“A search warrant served on Ramirez’s residence located numerous baby-care items, including baby formula, diapers of the same size worn by Baby Brandon, and a baby rocker,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
Portillo and Ramirez do not have any infant children of their own, nor infant family members living in their homes, prosecutors said. Investigators believe all of the baby care items found in Portillo’s home were there as part of a plan for keeping the kidnapped baby.
Prosecutors charged Portillo with felony kidnapping, conspiracy, and first-degree burglary.
Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez
Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez, 43, was the first person who police became suspicious of because her story about what happened changed multiple times, police said.
Ramirez made “inconsistent statements” during her interview with police, Camarillo said.
Detectives determined that Ramirez had gone grocery shopping with the baby’s grandmother on Monday and she was with the grandmother when Baby Brandon was kidnapped from the apartment.
Ramirez was communicating with Portillo in the hours before the kidnapping, police said.
“It’s a clear indication that this was pre-planned. Pre-meditated. They had a plan. They executed that day,” Camarillo said.
Camarillo described Ramirez as a friend of the baby’s family.
FBI agent Scott Shelby said, “A stranger child abduction is an extraordinarily rare occurrence.”
“The kidnapping of Baby Brandon sent a shudder through our whole community, not just us parents,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “The San Jose Police – who worked through the night to find and rescue this child – are the heroes of this story. Now, my office will go to work to hold his kidnappers accountable.”
Prosecutors charged Ramirez with felony kidnapping, conspiracy, and first-degree burglary.
Baldomeo Sandoval, 37, was also arrested, however, prosecutors declined to charge him with any crimes. The investigation apparently revealed the Sandoval did not play a role in baby kidnapping conspiracy.
Sandoval is married to Ramirez. The personal relationship between Portillo and Ramirez is unclear.
Charges against Portillo and Ramirez
Portillo and Ramirez conspired together to kidnap the baby sometime between April 1- April 25, according to charges filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday.
“The two plotted to snatch Brandon,” prosecutors wrote.
They were both charged with three felony criminal counts and face prison time if convicted.
Ramirez provided Portillo with a vehicle and infant car seat to carry out their plot, prosecutors wrote. In the days leading up to the kidnapping, Portillo obtained baby care supplies, including diapers and formula for making bottles, court documents state.
During the 20 hours Baby Brandon was missing, the infant was kept in Portillo’s home, according to court documents.
The infant was reunited Tuesday afternoon with his mother, who police described as “traumatized” by the frightening ordeal.
Portillo and Ramirez were remanded to jail without bail at the request of the District Attorney’s Office.