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Man seen ‘forcing ex-wife into SUV’ before she was found dead

A Texas mother-of-three was found dead last week having last been seen alive a day earlier when her ex-husband allegedly forced her into an SUV.

Melissa Banda, 37, was reportedly kidnapped last Thursday by Richard Ford, 40, and her lifeless body was found just over 24 hours later in a rural stretch of Hidalgo County on Friday. 

Ford was arrested late Thursday shortly after witnesses dialed 911 at 3:49pm to report they had observed him forcing Banda into a rented white Dodge SUV, a release from the McAllen Police Department said.

Banda had a protective order against Ford. She accused him of violating that order on June 30 after he allegedly called her, staying silent on the line.

Ford was located by law enforcement in a parking lot near the beach on South Padre Island Thursday evening and arrested, however Banda was still missing.

A desperate search to find the mother-of-three continued through Thursday night before coming to a tragic head late Friday, when her ‘lifeless’ body was found by Hidalgo County Sheriffs at 11:33pm.

Questions as to the suspected cause of death or whether Banda’s body showed any signs of injury went unanswered by the sheriff’s office, pending an autopsy.

The circumstances surrounding the discovery of her body also remains unclear.

Banda’s sister, Cindy Banda, eulogized her in a Facebook post after her body was found, remembering her sibling as ‘the best sister you could ever ask for,’ adding that Melissa was her ‘everything’.

Banda leaves behind three children, ages six, 10, and 12, according to a GoFundMe Page set up to benefit them.

‘Melissa Banda was a young, beautiful, smart and kind woman,’ Jennifer Cardenas wrote in tribute on the fundraiser. ‘She was the mother of 3 children who meant the world to her.

‘She coached her daughters’ soccer team, worked full time, and was always willing to help out those less fortunate.’

Banda and Ford were married in July 2008, records on the Hidalgo County Clerk’s Office’s website indicate. It’s unclear when the pair divorced as Hidalgo County doesn’t make divorce records public, KRGV reported.

In the weeks prior to her death, Banda accused Ford of violating a protective order she had taken out against him.

On June 30, she reported to police that ‘her ex-husband, Richard Ford had called her that morning … when answering the call Richard stayed quiet on the line … there is currently a protection order which prohibits him from making any contact with her,’ a news release states.

A warrant was issued for Ford’s arrest for a violating a court and for harassment. He was initially taken into custody on those charges after Banda’s disappearance and before her body was discovered.

He was later charged with aggravated kidnapping by McAllen Police. He was booked into county jail Saturday with his bond set at $2.5 million.

Ford has a violent criminal history spanning back to February 1998, when he was charged for striking a victim with his hand in November 1997, causing ‘bodily injury’, the complaint states.

He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 15 days in Hidalgo County Jail, issued a $300 fine and place on community supervision for 180 days.

Two years later, he pleaded guilty to attempting to commit murder in August 2002 in connection to an incident in April 2001. The court sentenced him to eight years deferred probation and 240 hours of community service.

Then in February this year, he was arrested after being accused of assaulting a family member by impeding circulation – the act of applying physical pressure to a person’s throat or face, inhibiting their ability to breathe.

Ford is expected to be arraigned Monday in relation to Banda’s disappearance.

The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating her death.

‘HCSO Major Crimes Unit will take lead on the Capital Murder Investigation,’ Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. Guerra said in a tweet.

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