Lawrence crime, fire, courts coverage
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A 53-year-old Northlake, Ill., man was sentenced today to 30 months in prison after telling the court he'd lacked sleep and feared his children were possessed by demons when he and his wife left them outside the family vehicle in a Lawrence parking lot with their hands and feet bound last summer.
Adolfo Gomez was sentenced in Douglas County District Court after pleading no contest in December to two felony counts of child abuse and three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. Adolfo and his then-wife, Deborah Gomez, 44, were arrested June 13, 2012, after passersby saw the children tied up and called police. Adolfo and Deborah have since divorced.
On Wednesday Adolfo Gomez said he now understands that his behavior was irrational.
"That is something I've never done before. That is something that's not even logical," he said. Gomez said he had one message for his ex-wife and his children. "Basically, that I'm sorry I screwed everything up," he said. "I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."
Two children, ages 5 and 7, were found bound and blindfolded outside the family’s Chevrolet Suburban while three other older children, 12, 13 and 15, were inside the vehicle, unbound. According to court testimony by Adolfo Gomez and others, the family was in Lawrence on its way from Illinois to Arizona. According to testimony in court Wednesday, Adolfo and Deborah Gomez had been convicted of child endangerment in Illinois four years earlier, after neighbors reported the couple had left two children home alone.
Gomez was uncooperative during the arrest in Lawrence, and police used a Taser to subdue him. At previous hearings, Gomez testified that he and his children were fearful of demonic possession and were leaving their home in Illinois because they believed it was haunted. In June, Douglas County District Judge Paula Martin declared Gomez competent to stand trial.
In January, Deborah Gomez was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading no contest to three counts of child endangerment. Her court-appointed attorney, Angela Keck, had said Deborah was an unwilling participant and was made by Adolfo to bind the hands of one of her children. Douglas County prosecutors said the children have been placed in protective custody, but Deborah's plea agreement opened the door to her regaining custody of them in the future.
Adolfo Gomez has been in Douglas County Jail since he and his wife were arrested. Wednesday, at sentencing, he described some of the events leading up to his arrest. He said his judgment had been impaired by a lack of sleep. He also described how he and his family had become fearful of supernatural activity at their Illinois home, which they left with the intention of going to Arizona. His court-appointed attorney, James Rumsey, offered evidence that Gomez had a history of mental health problems.
Gomez said Wednesday that other family members first reported seeing phantom shadows and spirits at their home in Illinois and that he did not initially believe them. "I mean, it just sounds kind of crazy," he said.
Soon, Gomez said, he also began to hear disembodied voices around the house. Over time, he said, "They were getting bolder. And then I started to get concerned." He sought the advice of a church pastor, but the problem persisted. Gomez said he led his family to sell many of their belongings to raise money for a move to Arizona. They left in June, driving a Chevrolet Suburban.
But Gomez said their problems followed them as far as Kansas. After nine days without sleep, he began to believe that some of his children had been possessed by demons.
Douglas County prosecutors said they made the plea agreement, which recommended the 30-month sentence instead of more time in prison, partly to prevent Gomez's children from having to testify in a trial.