The husband of a missing woman found dead Friday night is expected to be transported from McAllen police custody to the county jail on “unrelated charges,” a spokesman for the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Saturday, adding that the man will likely be arraigned Monday on charges which have yet to be determined.
Early Saturday morning, Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra confirmed via social media that the body of 37-year-old Melissa Banda was found in rural Donna late Friday night. Authorities said Friday that the McAllen woman disappeared after she was allegedly forced into a vehicle by her husband.
Investigators with the sheriff’s office, McAllen police and the FBI found Banda’s “lifeless body,” the sheriff tweeted, at about 11:33 p.m. east of FM 493 and Mile 14 1/2 North.
Led by the sheriff’s major crime unit leading, the case has turned into a capital murder investigation, Guerra said.
On Friday, McAllen police said they were called to the 7100 block of North Seventh Street around 3:49 p.m. Thursday and were informed Banda was forced into an SUV by her husband, 40-year-old Richard Ford, according to an agency news release.
The vehicle in question — a white Dodge SUV that had been rented, according to authorities — was found at 9:32 p.m. Thursday near or at Beach Access 5 on South Padre Island. Ford was found there and arrested by Cameron County law enforcement authorities.
Ford was taken into custody on two warrants: violation of a court order and harassment, McAllen police say.
On June 30, Banda reported to McAllen police that Ford called her that morning — violating a protection order that prohibited him from making any contact with her.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Francisco Medrano said the suspect, Ford, is currently in the custody of McAllen police on “unrelated charges” and is expected to be transported to the county jail.
Medrano also said Ford may be arraigned Monday, noting it’s “to be determined,” and that the charges he’ll face at the proceeding are pending.
Asked for a suspected cause of death or whether Banda’s body showed any injuries, Medrano said an autopsy is pending.
The circumstances surrounding the body’s discovery remains unclear.
On Facebook, Cindy Banda and Fidel Banda, who identified themselves as the woman’s siblings, asked for the public’s help finding her Friday afternoon.
“I know we can find her. Prayers are always welcome,” Fidel Banda wrote in his post, where he shared a flyer to spread the word of Melissa’s disappearance. “We won’t give up searching Mel.”
Following the discovery of Banda’s body, Cindy Banda shared a post Saturday morning eulogizing her sister: “Sister you were my everything.”
“God always takes the good angels (and) I’m so grateful for the time he gave me with you,” Cindy Banda wrote. “I love you so much but I know you will be watching over us.
“You were the best sister anyone could ask for,” she wrote.
A GoFundMe was organized for Melissa’s children by Jennifer Cardenas, who wrote on the page the entire proceeds will be given to Cindy.
Melissa was the mother of three children aged 6, 10 and 12, according to the GoFundMe.
“Melissa Banda was a young, beautiful, smart and kind woman,” Cardenas wrote. “She coached her daughters’ soccer team, worked full time, and was always willing to help out those less fortunate.”
Cardenas explains the entire fund will go to Cindy “as the sole beneficiary to help support Melissa’s children during this difficult time.”
“Sadly, Melissa was taken from us too soon,” Cardenas wrote. “They will be needing financial support and mental support after the loss of their mother.”
In February 1998, Ford was charged with assault after allegedly striking a victim with his hand on Nov. 11, 1997, according to the complaint.
Ford pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 15 days in Hidalgo County’s jail, given a $300 fine and placed on community supervision for 180 days.
Two years later, Ford pleaded guilty for attempting to commit murder in August 2002 in connection to an April 2001 incident, according to jail records.
The court sentenced him to eight years deferred probation with 240 hours of community service, records show.
Nearly 20 years later, Ford was arrested again on Feb. 29 in reference to assaulting a family member by impeding circulation, jail records show.