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DA: Suspects tried to kidnap baby 3 times before succeeding

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The man and the woman charged with kidnapping a 3-month-old baby last month from his Northern California home while his grandmother unloaded groceries tried at least three times to take the child before succeeding, authorities said Thursday.

Yesenia Ramirez, 43, and Jose Portillo, 28, were charged with the April 25 kidnapping of the boy who was taken from the family’s second-floor San Jose apartment, prompting a frantic search by local and federal authorities. The child was found unharmed in Portillo’s home the following day and the two were arrested.

Ramirez and Portillo were charged with three attempted kidnapping counts at a hearing Thursday, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Rebekah Wise said in a statement.

A motive for the kidnapping has not been determined but evidence shows that Ramirez and Portillo tried to abduct the child several times, including one when Portillo posed as a Child Protective Services worker and went to the family’s home, Wise said.

Ramirez’s attorney, Cody Salfen, said she was a friend of the family and had babysat the child several times.

“This is not some random child abduction, and these people are not strangers,” he said.

Salfen said he couldn’t comment on the charges because he has not yet seen the evidence in the case.

“They’ve spent a huge amount of time and resources in evaluating evidence on their end, but without giving the defense an equal opportunity at accessing that evidence so, we can’t really respond to the allegations at this point,” he added.

Wise said Ramirez was at the child’s home when Portillo showed up on March 14 saying he was a social worker and needed to take the child with him. The family decided to call CPS, who stated that they had not sent anyone and Portillo eventually left.

Evidence showed that Ramirez and Portillo plotted that kidnapping attempt, she said.

Portillo’s attorney, Karry Iyama, didn’t immediately return a message Thursday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Wise said Ramirez and Portillo also planned to kidnap the boy at a local store twice, once on March 28, and again on the morning of the actual kidnapping.

“In the first attempt, they were unable to switch shopping carts in an effort for Portillo to leave the store with” the child, she said. On the second occasion, they were unable to distract the grandmother.

The mother of the baby, Carolina Ayala, said Ramirez befriended the child’s grandmother in church and began spending a lot of time with the family once she was nine months pregnant.

On the day of the kidnapping while his mother was at work, Ramirez had driven the child and his grandmother on a shopping trip and had been communicating with Portillo before he took the baby, police said.

“There are few things more terrifying than someone stealing a child, as if they’re a car or a wallet,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “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.”

By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press

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