Melissa Banda was scared of Richard Ford.
Nearly six months ago she reported that her soon-to-be ex-husband had forced his way into her house, covered her mouth and nose so she couldn’t breathe and threatened her and her children after an argument over the value of their home and some assets, according to McAllen police.
“Melissa stated after Richard assaulted her he told her ‘for the sake of the kids, don’t tell anyone what happened,'” a probable cause affidavit for his arrest stated. “Melissa stated Richard left before police arrived and later found out he picked up their kids … from school so she was afraid he would do something to them.
“Melissa stated Richard is currently living inside his Jeep but has a key to the house so (she) is afraid he is going to hurt her or the children.”
That was on Feb. 28.
Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra announced on social media that investigators had found Banda at 11:33 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7. She was dead.
Ford stands accuse of abducting her the day before, Aug. 6, and murdering her less than an hour of kidnapping her from her residence.
Guerra said Ford lacerated Banda’s throat with a “very, very sharp object” that as of Tuesday afternoon had not been recovered.
And detectives theorize that the investigation and prosecution of Ford will show that he planned the crime, including an effort to drive to South Padre Island after killing Banda in rural Donna and dumping her body in an effort to misdirect authorities, McAllen police chief Victor Rodriguez said.
On Tuesday, Justice of the Peace Jaime Muñoz charged Ford with capital murder and set his bond at $2 million. Ford only said “yes” to questions Muñoz asked him while advising him of his rights during the hearing inside the Hidalgo County jail.
Last Saturday, McAllen police had charged Ford with aggravated kidnapping/sexual abuse. Ford received a $2.5 million bond on the charge. He remains jailed on a total of $4.5 million in combined bonds.
A probable cause affidavit for Ford’s Feb. 28 arrest on a charge of assault family violence impede breath, which police described as a violent episode, shows Banda told police she was scared of Ford and obtained an emergency protective order against the man after his arrest, which the report notes was to prevent any future violence.
McAllen police arrested Ford that day at the Xtreme Jump McAllen trampoline park at 5:28 p.m. after Melissa’s sister, Cynthia, said she found his vehicle. Cynthia had called police because she had been looking for Ford, who investigators say assaulted Melissa at 1:30 p.m.
“Cynthia stated Richard threatened his children if Melissa told anyone what occurred,” the probable cause affidavit stated. “Cynthia stated Richard picked up the children … from school … and was worried he would do something to them.”
Police found him with their children inside the trampoline park, according to the charging document.
The search for Ford began after Melissa reported earlier that afternoon that he assaulted her.
When police arrived, Melissa explained that she was in the process of getting a divorce and Ford arrived at her home and asked her to come outside because he had questions about their home.
“Melissa stated she went outside her home and met up with Richard. Melissa stated Richard began asking several questions and she responded back with, ‘I don’t know Richard whatever the judge says.’ Melissa stated this angered Richard and he began to use curse words towards her,” the affidavit stated.
According to police, Melissa told Ford she was not going to put up with him and walked toward her front door.
“Melissa stated Richard made a quick movement in her direction and this scared her,” the affidavit stated. “Melissa stated she was able to enter the residence and attempted to close the door. Melissa stated Richard proceeded to open the door before it closed and reached in and pulled her hair.”
A detective who interviewed Melissa and Ford later that night described the same event but said Ford “kicked the door open.”
Once inside, police accuse Ford of forcing Melissa’s head against a stone wall.
“Melissa stated she felt immediate pain from this. Melissa stated she began to scream telling Richard to stop,” the probable cause affidavit stated. “Melissa stated Richard became upset with her because she was screaming so he proceeded to place his entire hand over her mouth and nose.”
At that point, police say Melissa told them that she couldn’t breathe.
“Melissa stated she felt like Richard was going to kill or hurt her,” the affidavit stated.
Police say Ford tried to close the front door during the alleged assault but was unable to reach it with his foot.
“Melissa stated in an effort to get away from Richard she threw her body to the floor and was able to get Richard away from her. Melissa stated Richard began to get scared and asked her to please stop screaming,” the affidavit stated.
The report states that Ford asked Melissa to go to the garage so they could talk away from the doorbell camera, but her sister arrived and Ford then left.
Police checked the area but didn’t immediately find Ford, who Melissa’s sister, Cynthia, found at the trampoline park with the children, according to the probable cause affidavit.
“Melissa stated at the time she was being assaulted she was in fear for her life. Melissa stated when Richard covered her mouth and nose with his hand she believed he was going to kill her. I did observe Melissa’s lips to be swollen,” the affidavit stated.
Ford told a detective that he put his hands on Melissa to calm her down “and might of put his hand near her face but was not sure,” according to the charging document.
“Richard stated he did go talk about the house loan amount and Melissa began exaggerating her behavior. Richard stated Melissa acted as if he was going to attack her and she began to act frightened,” the probable cause affidavit stated.
Police then booked Ford into jail on the assault family violence charge and he bailed out on a $20,000 bond the next day, Feb. 29, records show.
About three months later Banda again called McAllen police on Ford.
Police say Banda report on June 30 that Ford called her, which was in violation of a protection order prohibiting him from making contact with her. Ford stayed quiet on the line, according to police.
That information comes from the police news release sent Friday seeking the public’s help in finding Banda, who at the time was still considered a missing person. McAllen’s police chief, however, said Tuesday that investigators were alarmed when Ford was found near Beach Access No. 5 on South Padre Island at 9:32 p.m. Thursday and Melissa was nowhere to be found.
She had been last seen with him at 3:49 p.m. Thursday when a nanny at her home called police to say a man had abducted Melissa in broad daylight.
Police say that man is Ford and that abduction was caught on surveillance video.
On Tuesday, Rodriguez, McAllen’s police chief, said his investigators obtained warrants for harassment and violation of a protection order after the June 30 report. Cameron County Park Rangers used those warrants to arrest Ford on South Padre Island.
Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said Melissa took the appropriate steps by obtaining the protective order.
Ford appeared in court again on Wednesday, this time by video-conference with 464th state District Judge Ysmael Fonseca Jr. for a hearing over a writ of habeas corpus seeking release for lack of probable cause or a reduction of bond.
Sergio Sanchez, a defense attorney who spoke with Ford on Friday at the McAllen Police Department, filed that motion on Saturday, before authorities charged Ford with capital murder. Sanchez had previously represented Ford in the protective order case and in a family matter, but announced he was withdrawing from the case because Ford was no longer able to retain him.
Hector Hernandez Jr., another defense attorney, said Ford had requested a court-appointed attorney from indigent defense. Hernandez was appointed to the case and had filed an identical motion in another court.
Fonseca allowed Sanchez to withdraw and disclosed to Hernandez that he signed a warrant for the case and has extrajudicial knowledge of the case. The judge said that wouldn’t cloud his ability to make a ruling on the writ.
Hernandez will be second chair on the case as the lead defense attorney hadn’t been appointed at that time.
Hernandez also asked Fonseca for more time so he could consult with the lead defense attorney and whether to pursue the writ in Fonseca’s court or in the 370th in front of Judge Noe Gonzalez.
Hearings for both writs are scheduled on Aug. 26 at 10:30 a.m. in both courts, records show.