Saturday, 2:15 PM
New Bedford man charged with murdering mother, former girlfriend
By John R. Ellement and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
NEW BEDFORD -- A man has been accused of stabbing his mother and a former girlfriend to death and leaving their bodies for days in an apartment where "I [heart] you" was written on a wall in blood, according to prosecutors and court records.
It appeared that the Independence Street apartment where the macabre killings occurred had been rigged to explode. An unlit stove had been left on full blast, authorities said, and a space heater had been turned to high. Police and firefighters responded Tuesday to calls about a gas smell and found the body of the mother, Katherine Gomes, 61, lying on an air mattress with multiple stab wounds. She had been dead since Saturday, authorities said.
The body of the suspect's former girlfriend, Robyn Norma Mendes, 48, was discovered in a bedroom with blood-spattered walls where the ghastly message had been scrawled. Mendes lay in bed fully dressed with no visible wounds. After being killed on Sunday, Mendes had been dressed and makeup had been applied to her face, according to court records.
The accused killer, Gary Gomes, 35, told police after his arrest that "he was at peace with himself and that this had to happen," according to a police report filed in New Bedford District Court. Gomes pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping today when he was arraigned.
Defense attorney Gerald FitzGerald did not challenge the state's recitation of the facts during the brief proceeding, but said he planned to defend his client vigorously in court.
Gomes was arrested on Tuesday after investigators said they found him barricaded in a room in Mendes's apartment on Philip Street with her 12-year-old daughter. He was with the girl for at least several hours before police arrived, according to Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the Bristol district attorney.
It was not immediately clear how or why Mendes had ended up in the mother's apartment on Independence Street because the two women had a volatile history. In 2005, Gary Gomes had been accused beating Mendes, holding a knife to her throat, and telling her, "you're never going to leave me," according to court records.
On July 29, 2005, Mendes testified in court against Gary Gomes at a dangerousness hearing. According to court records, Gomes's mother threatened Mendes after she testified, telling her, "I'm going to get you." Katherine Gomes was charged with intimidating a witness, a charge that was dropped when she paid $350 in court costs, records show.
Gary Gomes has been incarcerated at least three times for violent crimes against women in the last four years. After the dangerousness hearing in July 2005, he was held for 90 days without bail, according to court records. The alleged fatal stabbing would be at least his third attack against Mendes.
In 2006, Gomes assaulted Mendes again, dragging her into the woods. Police rescued her with the aid of dogs, according to court records. Gomes went back to prison for 2-1/2 years and was released in July 2008. New Bedford Police Chief Ronald E. Teachman said investigators were examining what if any contact his department had with the victims or Gomes since his release.
In 2004, Gomes was charged with stealing a $500 guitar from his sister, Jean. Gomes ran into Jean and his mother a few days later and he attacked his sister, according to court records. "Defendant became violent and began to choke the victim with both hands around her neck," the records state.
After his arrest on Tuesday, Gomes told police that he had taken the knife to Mendes's apartment on Philip Street to wait for her estranged husband, Victor Mendes.
"If Victor did show up at the house, he intended to kill him and dismember him," the police report states. "He intended to take his time. He wanted to see him dead."
Police arrested Gomes before Victor Mendes arrived.
The deaths were the first homicides in New Bedford in 10 months, according to Mayor Scott W. Lang, who noted that there had been a sharp drop in violent crime in the city.