A Douglas County judge on Tuesday morning found a suburban Chicago man mentally competent to stand trial after two of his children were found bound and blindfolded outside a west Lawrence Walmart earlier this month.
District Judge Paula Martin made the ruling after Elbridge Griffy, an appointed defense attorney for Adolfo Gomez Jr., 52, said a Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center evaluator said Gomez was competent to assist in his defense at a trial.
“He has a full understanding of the charges against him,” Griffy said.
Gomez and his wife, Deborah Gomez, 43, both of Northlake, Ill., each face two child abuse counts after Lawrence police found two of their children, ages 5 and 7, bound by their hands and feet on June 13 near the family’s vehicle in the parking lot outside Walmart, 550 Congressional Drive. Police have said the family was traveling from Illinois to see a family member in Arizona before their Chevrolet Suburban broke down on Interstate 70, causing the couple and their five children to stop in Lawrence two days before a Walmart customer called officers. The woman said she saw one of the bound children outside the vehicle in the store’s parking lot.
During Tuesday’s brief hearing, Gomez also dropped a request he made last week to remove Griffy as his attorney and to represent himself. He had voiced religious objections to having Griffy as his lawyer because he said Griffy used a curse word the first time they met.
“I believe we’ve reconciled, and I would rather have him represent me,” Gomez told Martin.
Martin has scheduled the next hearing for the couple for 4 p.m. Thursday, but the judge said the hearing would likely only be used to schedule a future preliminary hearing in the case.
“I’m happy Mr. Gomez and I were able to reconcile,” Griffy said after Tuesday’s hearing. “I think he misread me.”
Griffy said he would now begin to review information in the case to try to determine a defense strategy. Griffy said Gomez had asked him not to publicly discuss specific details of the case, although the defense attorney acknowledged the case can present challenges because it has received national media attention.
“Sometimes public opinion has a bearing and does affect the courts,” Griffy said.
A defense attorney for Deborah Gomez at a hearing last week said her client was not aware the two younger children were bound near the vehicle and said she had been traveling to Arizona with the hopes of being able to get away from her husband.
Lawrence police said they used a Taser to subdue Adolfo Gomez after he resisted officers, and he’s also charged with obstruction.
They apprehended Deborah Gomez around the same time inside the store.
The couple also face five counts each of aggravated child endangerment for alleged treatment of the two young children and three older ones, ages 12, 13 and 15, whom police found in the vehicle. The older ones were not bound when police found them.
Douglas County prosecutors said the children have been placed in protective custody. The parents remain in the Douglas County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond each.