KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An Illinois couple arrested after two of their five children were found bound and blindfolded in a Walmart parking lot in Kansas were investigated for possible neglect last year by child welfare officials in their home state.
Adolfo Gomez Jr., 52, and his wife, Deborah Gomez, 43, both of Northlake, Ill., were arrested last Wednesday morning at a Walmart in Lawrence, Kan., after someone spotted a 5-year-old boy sitting outside a sport utility vehicle with his hands and feet bound and a blindfold covering his eyes.
Police responded and found a 7-year-old girl also tied up and blindfolded outside the vehicle, while three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were inside the vehicle but not restrained.
Kendall Marlowe, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, said the agency opened a case on the family in December after validating a report of neglect. The case was closed in April, and the children were allowed to remain with the family. The children would have been removed if social workers believed they were in danger, Marlowe said.
"We had a substantiated claim of neglect," he said. "What appears to have happened in the Walmart parking lot isn't neglect, it's abuse."
Marlowe also confirmed his agency was aware of allegations made in 1998 that the parents had left two boys, ages 2 and 3, home alone. The family was living in Naperville, Ill., then.
Police said the family was driving from their home in suburban Chicago to visit family members in Arizona last week, when their Chevrolet Suburban broke down on an interstate outside of Lawrence and they pulled into a remote part of the Walmart parking lot. They had been in the lot for about a day and a half when the children were found.
Both parents have been charged with two counts of child abuse and five counts of child endangerment. Adolfo Gomez also was charged with one count of obstruction for resisting officers, who used a stun gun to subdue him when he tried to climb into the SUV as they approached.
Deborah Gomez was inside the store during that confrontation and taken into custody about 10 minutes later by officers who escorted her out.
The parents are being held on $50,000 bond each and have court hearings scheduled Thursday. The children have been placed in temporary custody.
The Lawrence Journal-World reported Tuesday afternoon that a judge ordered a mental evaluation for Adolfo Gomez, who has asked to represent himself.