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LAWRENCE, Kan. (CBS) — A Northlake mother says she was unaware of how her five children were being treated by her husband and was trying to get out of the relationship.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, the couple is facing charges for blindfolding their children in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart store in Kansas.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports
The attorney for Deborah Gomez, 43, told a judge during a hearing in Lawrence, Kan., that she did not know what was happening with her children when she walked into the store and left them with their father, Adolfo Gomez Jr., 52.
The Gomezes are accused of tying up and blindfolding their 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter outside their SUV in the store parking area on June 13. Three other children, ages 12, 13 and 15, were inside the vehicle but not restrained.
Police had to use a stun gun to subdue Adolfo Gomez as he allegedly resisted an officer. Deborah Gomez was arrested inside the Wal-Mart.
Deborah Gomez’s attorney says his client was in a difficult relationship with her husband and trying to separate.
“She was every much a victim as the children. She did everything she could,” attorney Angela Keck said.
But the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says its agents have investigated the couple in the past for allegations of neglect.
Meanwhile, Elbridge “Skip” Griffy, a court-appointed attorney, told Douglas County, Kan., Judge Paula Martin that he was still representing Adolfo Gomez until the results of a competency review were discussed next Tuesday.
Mental health professionals evaluated Gomez to determine if he was able to represent himself in court after asking the judge to remove Griffy, objecting to his use of profanity during one of their conversations.
Griffy said he would stay on the case through that hearing to make sure he wasn’t working for someone who was “completely off the edge of the planet.”
Not long before the Gomezes’ arrests, the family had traveled to Kansas from their home in Northlake, where they had been renting a house in the 100 block of North Wolf Road for the past few months.
But their next-door neighbors told CBS 2 the family had moved out last week, and were heading to Arizona to find work.
They apparently left many of their personal belongings behind, including a small white delivery-style van in the driveway, and an assortment of items in the overgrown backyard.
WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller spoke with the family’s former landlord last week. Shocked at the news about the Gomez family, Emilio Ochoa said in the two years he knew the family as their landlord in Wood Dale, Adolfo Gomez was a man who laid down the law with his children.
“He was the disciplinarian. The mother more or less let the father do that, and we would hear them yelling at the kids – and the kids crying,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa said he never saw the parents physically abuse the children. He said the children were sent to Christian Bible school every Saturday.
Ochoa said Adolfo Gomez did not work, and Deborah Gomez worked for a construction company during the summer – but otherwise depended on grants and help from charities.
The parents are being held on $50,000 bond and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing next Thursday. Keck asked Martin to reduce her client’s bail to $15,000 so she could get out of jail to take care of her children. They have been in protective custody.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)