A Texas babysitter confessed to kidnapping a 1-year-old boy she was charged with looking after, taking him with her to Alabama and convincing her estranged boyfriend that the child was theirs.
In a bizarre saga, Wendy Hernandez abducted Jeremias Portillo, whom she had been babysitting once or twice a week, in April under the guise that she was taking him with her to visit her aunt. She had reportedly spent several months building up trust between herself and the boy’s mother, Ana Lilian Escobar, so that the woman would agree to her proposition.
“We considered her part of our family,” Escobar recalled.
While they were supposed to return later that afternoon, Hernandez called to say thunderstorms in the area were making driving dangerous and promised to come back the following day, to which Escobar hesitantly agreed.
“The next morning she was going to return, but in fact she didn’t return,” the mother said.
The babysitter then stopped responding to text messages and calls from the Portillo’s worried family. Instead, she met up with an old boyfriend in Little Rock and told him that the baby was his.
“When he and Hernandez separated, she told him she was pregnant with his child,” a police report explained. “They continued to communicate and she would frequently update him on the progress of her pregnancy.”
Meanwhile, Escobar and her husband called the police.
“In that moment, honestly, I was thinking the worst,” she said.
Police then tracked down Hernandez’s aunt, who turned out to actually be lifelong friend, and discovered that Hernandez never arrived to her house. The woman also indicated that the babysitter had asked her to not tell anyone her “true whereabouts.” Police were eventually able to find Hernandez, whom they arrested, and her boyfriend, who “truly believed” the boy was his son.
“[The boyfriend] stated that it was his and Hernandez’s intention to live together as a family so that he could have a relationship with his son,” the agent said.
Hernandez pleaded guilty in federal court on kidnapping charges. She is scheduled to be sentenced in February and faces life in prison. However, her punishment could be reduced because she accepted responsibility for her crime and was cooperative with police. She is also an undocumented immigrant, which leaves her fate unclear. Her boyfriend was not arrested.
All in a matter of three days, Portillo was returned to his concerned family.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” his mother said.