Texas Mom of 3 Is Found Murdered the Day After Being Kidnapped — and Estranged Husband is Charged
Melissa Banda had an active protective order against Richard Ford, and claimed he violated it as recently as late June.
Police in Texas have made an arrest in the murder of a mother of three who was found dead one day after being kidnapped.
The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office confirms to PEOPLE that Melissa Banda, 37, was allegedly kidnapped by her estranged husband, Richard Ford.
According to investigators, Banda had an active protective order against Ford, who is 40.
As recently as June 30, Banda had contacted local authorities, telling them Ford had allegedly contacted her via telephone that morning, violating the order.
Investigators say witnesses called McAllen police on Thursday afternoon after they saw the Texas mom being forced into a rented Dodge SUV — allegedly by Ford.
The SUV sped off, and police said eyewitnesses identified Ford as the alleged abductor and driver.
Ford was arrested hours later, and held on suspicion of kidnapping. The next evening, Banda’s body was found inside the rented SUV, which was abandoned on South Padre Island.
Banda is survived by her three children, who are 6, 10, and 12.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up online to help the children as they move forward without their mother.
It was unclear if Ford was the father of Banda’s children.
The campaign states that Banda “coached her daughters’ soccer team, worked full time, and was always willing to help out those less fortunate.”
PEOPLE confirms Ford was charged on Sunday with aggravated kidnapping. His bond is set at $2.5 million.
Online court records did not indicate if Ford had entered a plea, or if he had an attorney who could comment on the allegations.