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Man seeks more time; sex assault trial moved to late May

WILLMAR — The 21-year-old Texas man charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct for the sexual assault of a teenage girl last summer in Willmar has asked a district court judge for more time to prepare his case for trial.

Esequiel Gomez Jr. told District Judge Donald M. Spilseth during a Thursday hearing that he had just begun talking with his public defense attorney, Bob Schaps, and needed mo-re time to gather the witnesses for his case.

Spilseth then moved the jury trial dates for Gomez to May 30 and 31 in Kandiyohi County District Court. A trial management conference is scheduled for May 23.

Gomez had been scheduled for a three-day jury trial next week. He remains in the Kandiyohi County Jail on $1 million unconditional bail.

Gomez did not accept a plea agreement offered by the Kandiyohi County Attorney’s office in the case. The offer, outlined during the hearing by assistant county attorney Dain Olson, is that the state will amend the charge to second-degree level and Gomez would serve 117 months, nearly 10 years, in prison.

Gomez is also charged with capital murder for the August 2011 killing of an elderly woman in Tulia, Texas.

According to previous information from Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer, the 14-year-old victim identified Gomez as her alleged attacker in a photo line-up prepared by Willmar police. The girl reported she had been sexually assaulted around 2 a.m. July 29 in the area of the walking bridge near High Avenue Northeast in Willmar.

A police officer had encountered and identified Gomez in the nearby park at Robbins Island about an hour before police were called about the sexual assault.

The girl also submitted to an examination at Rice Memorial Hospital. The DNA evidence recovered from her was examined by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and then was entered into the nationwide database of crime scene DNA.

According to the Tulia Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab linked DNA evidence collected from the scene of the murder of Imogene Harris to the DNA collected in the sexual assault investigation in Willmar.

Harris, 84, was found dead in her residence on Aug. 14, 2011, in Tulia, Texas, in Swisher County in the northern panhandle of the state. The cause of death was blunt force trauma.

In addition to the Harris murder, Texas investigators have linked Gomez to another crime, the assault of an elderly person in Hico, Texas, in June 2008.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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