MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Three people charged with the aggravated kidnapping of 47-year-old Ulises Valladares appeared in court Friday.
Jimmy Sanchez, 38; Nicholas Cunningham, 42; and Sophia Heath, 35; appeared at probable cause court at the Montgomery County Jail.
Sanchez and Cunningham, who are both also facing aggravated robbery charges, received no bond.
Heath's bond was set at $1 million. If she makes bail, she will be required to wear an ankle monitor.
Sanchez and Cunningham are accused of forcing their way into Valladares' home in the 1700 block of Tyler Lane, in Conroe, on Wednesday around 8 a.m.
Once inside, they restrained Valladares and his 12-year-old son, ransacked the home and kidnapped Valladares, leaving the son at the residence, according to authorities.
The men took Valladares to Cunningham's girlfriend's house in northeast Houston, court records indicate. Cunningham's girlfriend, Heath, told investigators that the men told her to watch Valladares.
During a meeting with authorities, Valladares' brother received a phone call around noon from an unknown person who was speaking Spanish and said he was a part of "El Cartel Del Golfo," a Mexican drug cartel, court records said.
The caller demanded $20,000 for Valladares' safe return, according to police. When he told the man he did not have the money, the man told him to "figure it out" and to call back when he had it, according to court documents.
Authorities were able to track the cellphone used to call Valladares' brother for the ransom demand. The phone was tracked to a Best Western hotel in southeast Houston. Sanchez and Cunningham were arrested at that location.
After he was arrested, Cunningham told authorities that Valladares was being held at Heath's house, according to court records.
When authorities arrived at Heath's house in the 7300 block of Elbert Street, Valladares was shot and killed, according to police. His death was ruled a homicide. He died from a gunshot wound to an upper extremity with re-entry to the torso, according to authorities.
Sanchez has been charged 15 times in Harris County, but not all of the charges resulted in convictions.
Sanchez's most recent conviction in Harris County was in 2014, for evading arrest. Sanchez's other charges include (compelling) prostitution, retaliation, multiple assaults and theft.
Cunningham has had assorted run-ins with the Houston Police Department.
His last arrest in 2004 resulted in an aggravated robbery conviction. He was also convicting of evading arrest that same year.
Heath, alternately known as Sophia Heath-Perez, has a less extensive criminal history in Harris County. In 2016, she was arrested for drug possession. She was not convicted on that charge, but was convicted for misdemeanor failure to identify, which is typically associated with giving a fake name to authorities.