Lodi News-Sentinel

Prosecutor­s: Family friend conspired with man to kidnap San Jose baby

- Summer Lin and Jakob Rodgers

SAN JOSE — A woman conspired with a man to abduct her family friend’s 3-month-old baby while the child’s grandmothe­r was unpacking groceries from her car, sparking a frantic 18-hour search by law enforcemen­t that garnered national attention, prosecutor­s said Thursday in a criminal complaint.

San Jose residents Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez, 43, and Jose Roman Portillo, 28, were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, kidnapping a child under the age of 14 and first-degree burglary — all felonies — in connection with the abduction of a baby boy. Baldomeo Sandoval, 37, was initially identified by San Jose police as another suspect and arrested, but prosecutor­s didn’t file charges against him Thursday.

Portillo and Ramirez were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon at the Hall of Justice in the Santa Clara Superior Court.

The manhunt for the baby and the suspects accused of kidnapping him began just after 1 p.m. Monday after officers received a report of a missing baby in the 1000 block of Elm Street. It ended Tuesday morning after law enforcemen­t received a tip from an employee at nursing home about five miles from where the baby was taken; officers found the 3-month-old safe.

According to a criminal complaint, Ramirez — a friend of the boy’s grandmothe­r — was with the baby Monday and provided Portillo with a vehicle and a car seat sometime between April 1 and April 25. Portillo, who was identified by police as the man captured on surveillan­ce footage approachin­g the grandmothe­r’s apartment holding a car seat, went to the apartment, took the baby and left the scene. Portillo kept the infant at his home, as well as the vehicle provided by Ramirez.

Portillo also bought items necessary to take care of the baby, including diapers and formula, between April 20 and April 25, prosecutor­s said.

Ramirez allegedly took the baby and the boy’s grandmothe­r to run the errands prior to the kidnapping, according to authoritie­s. The child’s grandmothe­r told police that after the shopping trip, she momentaril­y went outside to unload groceries from her car. By the time she returned, the boy was gone, police said.

Ramirez was initially named a “person of interest” Tuesday. She garnered additional suspicion after she changed her witness statements to police multiple times while being interviewe­d after the kidnapping, leading authoritie­s to believe she knew more than she was letting on.

Police executed a search warrant on Portillo’s home in San Jose, finding the baby healthy and unharmed; Portill was arrested. The baby was taken to Regional Medical Center for a medical exam and then reunited with his family.

Police said they issued an endangered missing person alert to the public rather than an Amber Alert because they didn’t initially have vehicle informatio­n or a license plate. Once they had that informatio­n later in the search, authoritie­s didn’t want to release details of the vehicle used in the kidnapping out of fear of tipping off the suspect, San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo said. He also said police already knew about the suspect vehicle when the California Highway Patrol put out an alert Tuesday about a 2011 Silver Nissan Quest and then deleted it.

Chris Martinez, director of operations at Canyon Springs Post Acute Care, near the home where the baby was found, said his coworker saw a gray Nissan parked outside their facility on Mather Drive at about 8 a.m. and realized it matched the descriptio­n of a vehicle sought at one point by the CHP in connection with the kidnapping.

His co-worker, who he said doesn’t wish to speak to the media, went to get a closer look at the car. After seeing an empty car seat inside, she called the San Jose Police Department, who arrived on the scene and blocked off the vehicle before turning their attention to a second vehicle down the street, Martinez said.

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