Jimmy Sanchez, Sophia Perez Heath and Nicholas Cunningham were charged in the kidnapping.
A kidnapping victim was fatally shot by an FBI agent during a raid Thursday at a home in the Conroe, Texas.
The tragic event happened during a predawn operation in northeast Houston, hours after the man was bound with duct tape and pulled from his home by gunmen who later demanded ransom.
The kidnap victim, still bound, was hit by gunfire as the FBI burst into the Trinity Gardens home where he was being held with at least one woman and some children inside, officials said.
Police in Conroe, Texas, which is 40 miles north of Houston, confirmed the man had been kidnapped and held for ransom.
Late Thursday, multiple law enforcement agencies continued to investigate at the small home still trimmed with Christmas lights.
“The system failed,” Conroe Police Chief Philip Dupuis told reporters during an emotional press conference Thursday afternoon. “We do this job to help people and it doesn’t always go our way,” Chief Dupuis said.
“Whether it was accidental or not, the man is not going home to his family.”
Two men broke into a home in Conroe and abducted the man, according to cops. His 12-year-old son called police, who called the FBI.
“They were demanding money they were owed that nobody knew anything about,” Conroe Sgt. Jeff Smith told the Chronicle.
Nicholas Chase Cunningham, [left], and Jimmy Tony Sanchez, [right], have been charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery
Two men and a woman were arrested later on Thursday at two different locations on first-degree felony charges in connection with the case. A fourth person, the wife of one of the accused males, was questioned but not charged, police said.
“We’ve got the bad guys,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon. “Even though it’s good work on behalf of Conroe Police Department, it’s still a tragedy.”
Nicholas Chase Cunningham, 42, and Jimmy Tony Sanchez, 38, were charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Sophia Perez Heath, 35, faces one count of aggravated kidnapping.
Cellphone signals led authorities to a motel where two suspects were found. The suspects pointed cops and FBI agents to a house in Houston where another suspect, a woman, was located along with the man who was being held captive.
Victim: The kidnappers were looking for his brother but took Ulises Villadares [photo] instead, as his brother, was not home at the time
Neighbors identified the man as Ulises Villadares, but charging documents show it wasn’t him they were looking for, rather, his brother, who also lives in the home.
Cops say it is not clear what led to the gunfire. Villadares died later at a hospital.
The events reportedly started unfolding started About 8 a.m. Wednesday, when the kidnappers broke into a home on Tyler Lane in Conroe that the Villadares shared with his 12-year-old son and his brother, the intended target.
The 12-year-old heard a knock on the door, but the father answered the door, then two assailants rushed in with guns, The brother was at work at the time,
“They were demanding money they were owed that nobody knew anything about,” Sgt. Jeff Smith said.
The boy told Conroe police that two men armed men came to their house demanding $8,000 they said the father owed them. After binding the boy and his father with duct tape and ransacking the house, they took some property, before deciding to take the father hostage, after instructing the son not call police.
When the men left, the boy broke free and ran to a neighbor’s house, Smith said.
The neighbor called police, who launched an investigation and began interviewing the victim’s son and his brother.
Sophia Perez Heath faces one count of aggravated kidnapping
Khou reports that the victim’s brother received a call from a man who demanded a ransom. The caller said he was with “the cartel” and he wanted $20,000 in ransom money or the hostage would be killed.
The FBI was called in and they traced the call to the uncle to a Best Western on Bay Area Blvd. in the Webster area, Smith said.
Feds detained and questioned three people found in the hotel room around midnight, including Cunningham and Sanchez. The victim’s location was traced the Trinity Gardens home in the 7300 block of Elbert.
Conroe police and FBI agents stormed the home just before 4 a.m Thursday, that’s when the shooting happened, the hostage was still bound when he was killed charging documents show.
Regarding the organized crime connections, Chief Smith stressed there was no indication any of the suspected kidnappers actually had cartel connections.
“There are oftentimes claims of a cartel connection just to place a fear factor,” Smith said. “It appears somebody connected to the family was involved.”
The cartel link, he said, “was just used as a threat” to better extort money, Smith said.
The agent who fired the fatal shot has been sent on administrative leave, pending an investigation.
All three suspects – Cunningham, Sanchez and Perez Heath were charged with aggravated kidnapping. Cunningham and Sanchez additionally face aggravated robbery charges.
The suspects might still might face murder charges, and possible face life sentences.
Fox 26 reports Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon as saying he may consider harsher charges as well: “There’s a possibility of filing a felony murder because the defendants put this into play,” he said. “We will anticipate seeking a no-bond for the incident.”
“Even though it appears one possibility is friendly fire, the kidnappers put this into play, so they’re ultimately responsible for the outcome,” Ligon said.
“Regardless if this was intentional or not, under the felony murder rule, we can charge that.”