Crime

Man awaiting sentencing in Turlock sex abuse case found dead

Robert Daniel Gomes of Turlock
Robert Daniel Gomes of Turlock Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department

A 34-year-old man who was awaiting sentencing for sexually abusing a teenage girl in Turlock was found dead from an apparent suicide.

Robert Daniel Gomes’ body was found about 8:45 a.m. Saturday behind St. Jude’s Catholic Church in the 3800 block of Mitchell Road in Ceres. Investigators suspect his death was a suicide, the result of an apparent drug overdose, Ceres police Sgt. Danny Vierra said Tuesday afternoon.

Vierra said all indications point to a suicide, but Gomes’ death will remain under investigation until police receive a toxicology report and rule out all other possibilities. Gomes was found inside his Chevrolet Tahoe.

On Aug. 21, Gomes decided to plead guilty to all the charges against him and leave it up to a judge to decide how much prison time he would get. His conviction was not the result of a plea deal.

Deputy District Attorney Merrill Hoult had said in court that Gomes would face a maximum sentence of 20 years six months in prison. Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff would have determined Gomes’ sentence.

Gomes was scheduled to return to court Sept. 23. The prosecutor intended to ask Zeff to order the defendant to remain in jail while he awaited his sentencing hearing.

But Gomes didn’t show up to the Sept. 23 hearing, said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, his attorney. Tenenbaum said he did not know where his client was. Zeff issued a bench warrant for Gomes for failing to appear in court.

“Certainly, this is a tragic ending all around, for both sides,” Tenenbaum said Tuesday afternoon about Gomes’ death.

In August, Gomes’ trial likely would have been postponed because Zeff was presiding in a lengthy, gang-related homicide trial being held in a former federal bankruptcy courtroom a few blocks away in downtown Modesto.

Other judges have been assigned to handle Zeff’s other cases four out of five days a week. Judge Edward Lacy was handling Gomes’ case Aug. 21.

Tenenbaum told Lacy his client would plead guilty only if he was allowed to remain free on bail until sentencing. Lacy accepted Gomes’ guilty plea and allowed the defendant to remain free on bail.

Lacy then scheduled the defendant to return to court Sept. 23, when Zeff was to hear arguments over a prosecution motion to have Gomes returned to jail until he was sentenced.

If Gomes hadn’t pleaded guilty, he would have remained free on bail as he awaited his trial, scheduled to start Sept. 22.

The defendant pleaded guilty to eight felony charges.

Gomes was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child and three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years old. He also was convicted of sodomy and oral copulation with a person younger than 16, unlawful sexual intercourse with a child younger than 16, and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor more than three years younger.

The victim, who was known to Gomes, was 13 when the abuse started, according to a filed criminal complaint. The sexual abuse with the victim, identified as “Jane Doe,” occurred from December 2009 through Feb. 6, 2013.

Turlock police investigators have said the victim eventually told her mother, and the family then notified police.

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