A San Jose woman whose apparent web of lies led her to mastermind a kidnapping last spring is now claiming innocence in the case, months after pleading no contest and waiving her right to a trial.
It stands to reason that this story couldn't wrap up too quickly or simply, given that it was a morass of chaotic thinking and deception to begin with. And now we have prime suspect in the Baby Brandon kidnapping case, Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez, claiming innocence, or something, after prosecutors already presented a mountain of evidence that proves she is far from innocent.
Ramirez, 44, reportedly told probation officers that she only kidnapped the infant last April because her estranged husband "held a gun to her head." As KRON4 reports, prosecutors brought up this twist in her story ahead of the planned sentencing of Ramirez and co-conspirator Jose Roman Portillo, 28. Both pleaded no contest to the charges against them back in August after their arrests in April.
"Ms. Ramirez has continuously lied throughout this proceeding. First to police, and now to probation,” said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise speaking to the judge in the case Friday morning, per KRON4.
"This is not the time to raise an affirmative defense. Both defendants entered no contest pleas to every single charge," Wise said.
Ramirez's defense attorney, Cody Salfen, filed a motion to delay sentencing today, and that was granted. Per KRON4, Salfen said he trying to determine the relevance of hundreds of recorded jailhouse phone calls that prosecutors appear to be hoping to use in sentencing. Ramirez allegedly continued to proclaim innocence in these phone calls.
Investigators in the case quickly homed in on Ramirez and Portillo, who was one of two men Ramirez was apparently romantically involved with early last year. Ramirez's estranged husband was initially arrested alongside the pair, but he was soon released without charges, and all evidence pointed to Ramirez being the mastermind in the kidnapping with no help from her husband.
According to prosecutors, Ramirez came up with the plan to kidnap the three-month-old child of a friend, Baby Brandon Cuellar, after telling a series of lies in an attempt to baby-trap another boyfriend, Francisco Marquez. Ramirez had been seeing Marquez on and off for four years, and she allegedly had convinced him in previous years that he had fathered twins with her. According to Ramirez's tall tale, the twins were taken from her by child protective services in Mexico while she was in a coma from a car accident, and she couldn't get them back. She then told Marquez about this new baby and sent him photos, and when he then came to live with her on April 23, 2022, she became desperate to bring home a baby as proof of her story, telling him the baby was still at the hospital.
Brandon Cuellar was kidnapped on April 25 while in his grandmother's care — surveillance video showed Portillo walking off with him in a carrier while the grandmother was unloading groceries. Prosecutors said this was the fifth time that Ramirez and Portillo had attempted to snatch the child from his mother and grandmother, who attended the same church as Ramirez. (Incidentally, the leader of this same Pentecostal congregation based in a San Jose home has been implicated in the September 2021 death of his three-year-old granddaughter during an "exorcism.")
Portillo had previously tried posing as Child Protective Services and sought to take the child from his grandmother that way.
Sentencing for Ramirez and Portillo is now delayed until March 20. Ramirez is facing a likely 14-year sentence, while Portillo faces a maximum of five years.