A husband and wife arrested in Lawrence after two of their children were discovered bound and blindfolded outside a Walmart were charged Thursday in Douglas County District Court.
Illinois residents Adolfo Gomez, 52, and Deborah Martha Gomez, 43, were each charged with two counts of abusing a child and five counts of aggravated endangering a child. Aldolfo Gomez received an additional count of interfering with law enforcement. A judge set a $50,000 bond for each defendant.
On Wednesday morning, Lawrence police responded to a call from a Walmart customer who had seen a blindfolded boy, with his hands and ankles tied, sitting on the ground outside a van in the parking lot of the store, on Congressional Drive.
Police said they responded and found a man, later identified as Aldolfo Gomez, standing next to two bound children, a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. When the man fought police and tried to get into the vehicle, police said, they restrained him with a Taser. Officers located and arrested a woman inside the store.
Three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were inside the van but would not come out until juvenile officers persuaded them to unlock the door. Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley said Thursday that the children were still in protective custody, but would not comment further on their whereabouts. He said a temporary placement hearing for the children will be held soon.
The family had been traveling from Northlake, Ill., to Arizona to visit family when their van broke down Monday, police said. They said the family appeared to have been living in the van.
Northlake neighbor Thiemta Pachonhphai told The Star that he had never talked to Adolfo or Deborah, who rented a few rooms in the home of landlord Joseph Garelli on North Wolf Road in the Chicago suburb.
But Pachonhphai did say he’d sometimes speak to the children when they played in the yard. They liked to pet his dog.
“They were quiet,” Pachonhphai said.
He saw no indication that the children were mistreated, he said, but often they looked sad.
He said that Garelli told him three months ago that the children did not go to school.
Garelli’s phone line was disconnected Thursday and a brother said he could not be reached by telephone at this time.
Another neighbor, Kathy Grotefend, told NBC Chicago that the Gomez family recently sold most of their belongings at a garage sale. “She said she believes it’s the end of the world and they don’t need this materialistic stuff,” said Grotefend.
Adolfo and Deborah Gomez have been charged with child endangerment before.
According to a Chicago Tribune report from 1998, the couple’s toddler son was found wandering around a Naperville, Ill., apartment building in his diaper and a younger child was found crying in a crib at their empty apartment.
At the time, police suspected the husband and wife frequently left their children home alone while they worked night shifts. The children were briefly placed with relatives, the paper said, but were returned to their parents after the couple met with social service workers and agreed to counseling and supervision.
On Thursday, The Tribune reported that Aldolfo Gomez served time in the early 1980s for burglary and theft, and had been arrested three times on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Two of the three drunken-driving charges were dismissed and Aldolfo Gomez served 12 days in jail for the third, the paper reported.
In Kansas, the next hearing for the two defendants is June 21 at 2 p.m. Neither will be allowed contact with their children or with each other.