McAllen man guilty of ex-wife’s kidnapping, murder

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Melissa Banda

By Francisco E. Jimenez and Xavier Alvarez | Staff Writers

EDINBURG — A jury on Wednesday found 44-year-old Richard Ford guilty of capital murder for kidnapping and killing his ex-wife, Melissa Banda.

The verdict came in just before 3 p.m. following just a few hours of deliberations.

Ford kidnapped and killed Banda on Aug. 6, 2020. Her body was found late that evening in a drainage ditch in rural Donna.

Attorneys representing both sides of the case delivered closing arguments Wednesday morning to a packed courtroom that included members of Banda’s family.

“When you have a knife wound from one ear to the other, that’s intent,” lead prosecutor Hope Palacios said during closing arguments. 

She briefly instructed the jury about what they have to consider before the defense took the floor.

“Question everything,” lead defense attorney Jaime Aleman told the jury, taking just under an hour to deliver his closing statements.

He urged the jury not to make their decision based on Ford’s prior criminal record. He reminded the jury of their duties, and told them to only consider the evidence brought forth before them during trial.

“You’re not here to decide whether he was a good guy or a bad guy, whether he was a jerk of a husband or not,” Aleman said.

He reminded the jury of some of the evidence brought forth against his client, but also told them to question why certain items and individuals were not brought into the courtroom, which he alluded to being a lack of evidence against the case that Ford did indeed kill Banda.

“You have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he did in fact kill her,” Aleman said.

Palacios asked the jury to consider not only the direct evidence against Ford, but also the circumstantial evidence. 

She presented a slideshow, taking the jury through the entire series of events leading up to and following Banda’s murder. She ended the slideshow with a photo from Banda’s autopsy, showing a deep laceration in her neck.

The verdict comes on the sixth day of trial.

Find all of the Richard Ford trial coverage here.