Appeals court upholds terminating rights of mother who bound children in vehicle at Lawrence Wal-Mart
Topeka ? The Kansas Court of Appeals agreed Friday that a woman who was arrested in Lawrence in 2012 for endangering the life of her children should have her parental rights terminated.
Deborah Gomez, of Northlake, Ill., and her husband, Adolfo Gomez, were arrested in June that year after police found two of their children, ages 5 and 7 at the time, blindfolded and bound with duct tape outside of a vehicle in a Lawrence Wal-Mart parking lot.
The couple were located inside the store with a shopping cart that contained two more rolls of duct tape, two tarps and a softball bat.
The couple said at the time that they were traveling from Illinois to Arizona because they believed the world was coming to an end and their family home in Illinois was possessed by demons.
The children were later found to be “Children in Need of Care” and taken into state custody.
Both parents later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of endangering a child. Adolfo Gomez also was convicted and sentenced on two felony counts of child abuse.
Deborah Gomez served approximately six months in jail before she was released.
Two years later, in October 2014, the state filed a motion to terminate the couple’s parental rights with all four of their children, including three daughters and a son. Among other factors, prosecutors noted that they had convictions in Kansas for endangering children, and both had prior convictions on similar charges in another state.
After a trial in 2015, Douglas County District Judge Peggy Kittel granted the motion.
Both parents appealed that decision, but Adolfo Gomez’s appeal was thrown out on procedural grounds. Deborah Gomez claimed that the evidence was insufficient to prove she was an unfit mother, and that she had ineffective counsel.
While her appeal was pending, the oldest of the four children reached the age of majority. The youngest child is now 9 or 10, based on the year of birth listed in the opinion. One of the children eventually moved to Arizona to live with other family there, but the other children remained in Kansas.
During trial on the state’s motion, Christina Maki, the family’s initial case manager, testified that Deborah Gomez had moved back to Arizona after her release and that she had family and a support system there.
Sagan Smith, a subsequent case manager, testified that Deborah Gomez had successfully completed many of the case plan’s expectations, and that she returned to Kansas for monthly supervised visits with two of the children here.
Other case managers testified that Deborah Gomez had moved back to Kansas in the spring of 2014. But the foster mother of two of the children and other social service officials testified that they did not believe Gomez was ready to resume her role as a parent.
In a 20-page unpublished opinion, which only refers to the parties by their initials, or as “Mother” and “Father,” a three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals rejected Gomez’s arguments and upheld the District Court’s decision.
“There is clear and convincing evidence Mother was not presently fit and able to care for the Children and would not be able to care for the Children in the foreseeable future,” the panel said.