LAWRENCE, Kan. — A 7-year-old girl found bound in the parking lot of a Kansas Walmart told police she was hitting her siblings and asked to be tied up and blindfolded, an officer testified Friday during a preliminary hearing for the girl’s parents.
Deborah Gomez, 44, and her husband, Adolfo Gomez Jr., 52, were arrested in June and charged with two counts of child abuse and five counts of aggravated child endangerment after the 7-year-old and her 5-year-old brother were found tied up outside the family’s sport utility vehicle. Three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were inside the vehicle but not restrained.
The family pulled into the parking lot in Lawrence after their SUV broke down during a trip from their home in Northlake, Ill., to visit relatives in Arizona.
Miller’s partner, Officer Charles Stewart, testified that the 5-year-old boy – who had a soiled diaper and no shoes when officers found him – told him that his father had given him instructions about the blindfold.
“He said he wasn’t supposed to take off his bindings. He said his dad told him that,” Stewart said.
Stewart also said Adolfo Gomez refused to get out of the family’s SUV and began “loudly either reciting religious sayings or possibly praying.” Police used a stun gun to subdue Adolfo Gomez, who also faces an obstruction charge because he’s accused of resisting officers.
“I didn’t know what his intentions were,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t tell if he had any weapons. In my mind this child had possibly been abducted, and I was concerned that Mr. Gomez might flee or possibly injure the child or myself or my partner.”
The officers also testified about conditions inside the SUV, saying they thought they saw bottles of urine and a cooler full of urine in and around the vehicle, along with food and water.
Lisa Wilcox, a police evidence technician, said most of the vehicle’s windows were covered with cloth and other items, so it was difficult to see inside. The vehicle smelled because it was filled with rotting food, trash and containers for soiled diapers.
The defense used the cross-examination to point out that the children had no physical injuries.
Deborah Gomez’s attorney, Angela Keck, said previously that her client didn’t know what was happening to her children when she went into the store and left them with their father. Keck suggested her client was in a difficult relationship with her husband and trying to separate.
However, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said previously that it investigated the couple after receiving allegations of neglect, including a case it opened in December 2011 but closed in April.
The five children have been placed in protective custody, and their parents remain jailed on $50,000 bond. The preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume Tuesday and will culminate with the judge determining whether there’s enough evidence for the couple to stand trial.