Investigators in San Jose say two suspects accused of kidnapping a 3-month-old boy from his home last month made at least three earlier attempts to snatch the boy. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office said Thursday that suspect Jose Roman Portillo showed up at the family's home around six weeks before the kidnapping posing as a Child Protective Services worker, KGO reports. He said baby Brandon Cuellar needed to be removed from the home, but left after the family called CPS and were told nobody had been sent to the home, the DA's office says.
The DA's office says Portillo and the second suspect, Yesenia Ramirez, also made two attempts to kidnap the boy at a local Walmart. "In the first attempt, they were unable to switch shopping carts in an effort for Portillo to leave the store with Brandon," the office said in a statement. "On the second occasion, they were unable to distract Brandon’s grandmother." Investigators say Portillo snatched the boy from his home after the second failed supermarket attempt. Brandon was safely recovered after around 18 hours. Police haven't disclosed a motive, but family members say Ramirez met Brandon's mother at a church soon before Brandon was born and became "obsessed" with the baby.
Ramirez befriended the boy's grandmother and took her shopping as part of the kidnap plot, investigators say. Portillo and Ramirez were charged with the additional kidnap attempts at a hearing Thursday, SFGate reports. "There are few things more terrifying than someone stealing a child, as if they’re a car or a wallet," Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen said in a 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." Ramirez's husband was also arrested after Brandon was recovered, but he was later released without charge. (Read more kidnapping stories.)