Melissa Banda’s family shares harrowing testimony as ex-husband’s trial draws near

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Melissa Banda

In preparation for the trial of Richard Ford, the McAllen man accused of kidnapping and murdering his ex-wife in 2020, state prosecutors brought in several witnesses Thursday to testify in order to address what the defense attorneys described as “extraneous” matters.

Ford, 44, is charged with capital murder in the death of his ex-wife, 37-year-old Melissa Banda, on Aug. 6, 2020.

His trial may begin as early as next week after both prosecutors and the defense announced they were ready Tuesday morning.

Thursday morning saw Melissa’s sister and father take the stand, Cindy and Fidel Banda.

Cindy, 44, was asked of an incident that occurred sometime around Feb. 28, 2020 where Melissa didn’t show up for a lunch date they had set up.

Cindy arrived at a Texas Roadhouse and waited for her sister who never showed up. She testified that she messaged her sister on every application she could, but didn’t receive a response. So she went to Melissa’s home and found her in the garage in the fetal position.

“She was terrified, scared, shaking,” Cindy said.

According to Cindy, Ford barged into their home, grabbed Melissa by the hair, pushed her to a wall and began strangling her.

Despite not wanting to initially, Melissa eventually heeded Cindy’s advice and called the police who interviewed both Melissa and Ford.

Melissa moved in with her mother-in-law and then with Cindy, who had installed surveillance cameras at her home after the February incident but prior to Melissa moving in.

Cindy was a witness to Ford’s persistent calls to Melissa. She testified that Ford would call her sister and would threaten to kill her, but his voice would sound distorted like in the film series “Scream,” where the killer would use a device to disguise their voice when making phone calls to their victims.

“It was rare that it would stop,” Cindy testified.

Hidalgo County sheriff investigators examine a crime scene, where the body of Melissa Banda was found, on Saturday, Aug 8, 2020, north of Donna. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

On Aug. 6, 2020, Cindy’s surveillance cameras caught Melissa being taken and forced into a white Dodge Journey. It was the last time she was seen alive.

Fidel testified that he was the one who told police that it was Ford who took his daughter as they reviewed the surveillance footage.

He also testified that he would accompany Melissa to the gym at times because Ford would stalk her. Fidel would wait in the parking lot and keep an eye out for his daughter.

He stated that none of this began until Melissa decided to divorce Ford.

“It wasn’t until then when I found out who he was,” Fidel said during his testimony.

Melissa’s father stated that he never really knew Ford because he was never around as he worked in Alaska as a welder.

He said that his daughter didn’t want to worry him, but when Ford began to threaten her, she came clean, adding that Ford would lie and say he was in Alaska when in reality he was in the Rio Grande Valley.

Jury selection for the case against Ford is scheduled for Friday.