Suspects accused of kidnapping San Jose 3-month-old plead guilty to charges

Zach Fuentes Image
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
SJ kidnapping suspects plead guilty to charges
Suspects Yesenia Ramirez and Jose Roman Portillo are pleaded guilty to charges in the kidnapping 3-month-old Brandon Cuellar in San Jose.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News has confirmed the suspects accused of kidnapping 3-month-old Brandon Cuellar in San Jose earlier this year pleaded guilty to all charges.

Suspects Yesenia Ramirez and Jose Roman Portillo appeared in a Santa Clara County Court room on Tuesday for preliminary hearings in the case to determine whether it would move to trial. Instead, the two pled guilty.

RELATED: Brandon Cuellar kidnapping: Suspect Yesenia Ramirez deported 3 times to El Salvador, says DHS

"The court gave indicated sentences to defendant Ramirez, she pled for a 14 year top offer, which means she can be sentenced up to 14 years in prison and defendant Portillo, who pled to a five year top offer," said Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise who was assigned to prosecute the case.

The two pled guilty as charged to eight counts indicated in the complaint. The charges include conspiracy to commit kidnapping, kidnapping, a residential burglary, four attempted kidnappings and a misdemeanor for tampering with a vehicle.

The defense attorney, Cody Salfen said after the hearing that the offer is an opportunity for Ramirez to minimize the destruction the case has caused on her life. Portillo's attorney echoed that saying he was a victim of being in love.

The two suspects are both believed to be in a romantic relationship but Portillo wasn't the only man Ramirez was believed to be involved with.

Court testimony revealed that another man says he was in a relationship Ramirez and that until news of the kidnapping broke, he thought baby Brandon was their child together.

Ramirez is accused of faking her pregnancy and passing off the baby as her own.

RELATED: Baby Brandon's mother speaks out about abduction, reuniting with 3-month-old son

"That was the motive for kidnapping Brandon Doe," Wise said. "Our belief is that she was going to kidnap Brandon Doe to raise him, essentially as her own to kidnap him permanently and keep him from his family."

Wise says she is not happy with the offer the two suspects were given in court Tuesday.

"There were multiple attempts to kidnap this child, as well as other things that occurred that showed that these individuals were attempting to kidnap Brandon Doe and also cause some kind of harm to the family," Wise said. "There should have been an opportunity for us to have a sentencing hearing where they could have been sentenced up to their maximum exposure."

The maximum exposure would have been 16 years and 4 months for both suspects.

The harm to the family mentioned by Wise comes after the two suspects faced a misdemeanor vehicle manipulation charge.

A San Jose Police detective testified in court that they have evidence that the suspects worked together to cut the brakes on the car of Jessica Carolina Ayala, the baby's actual mother.

Ayala testified in court Tuesday that she first noticed the brakes were severed four days before the baby's kidnapping as she was about to take her older daughter to school.

RELATED: Suspect met 3-month-old's grandma through church, became 'obsessed' with him, family says

Additional kidnapping charges were announced against suspects Ramirez and Portillo during a press conference with the deputy DA on May 12.

The suspects allegedly tried to take the child on at least four other occasions in the weeks before the actual kidnapping, with one of the suspects once posing as a Child Protective Services worker, the DA says. The fourth attempted kidnapping charge added recently.

According to the DA, about a month and a half before the kidnapping, a man showed up at the 3-month-old's home and identified himself as a CPS worker.

The family called CPS, who said that they had not sent anyone to the home to take Brandon.

The "CPS worker" reportedly then left when the family did not give him Brandon. The DA says an investigation showed that Portillo was the "CPS worker."

Ramirez was reportedly at the victim's home when this happened.

The investigation also uncovered that Ramirez and Portillo allegedly planned to kidnap Brandon at a Walmart twice, once on March 28 and the other time in the morning on the day of the actual kidnapping. In the first attempt, they were reportedly unable to switch shopping carts in order for Portillo to leave the store with the baby, and on the second attempt, they were reportedly unable to distract his grandmother.

The two will be sentenced on Oct. 28.

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