Friday, December 19, 2014

Davis man’s body found in Sonoma County

James Gomez, 20, of Davis serenades his dog Libby. Courtesy photo

From page A1 | March 24, 2013 |

A bad choice made in the midst of a manic phase led to the death last week of lifelong Davis resident James Gomez, his father, John Gomez, said Saturday.

James Gomez, 20, was found dead in Sonoma County on Friday, three days after he fled sheriff’s deputies who had pulled him over for having a broken headlight.

Gomez was discovered by a search party that included family members in a pond surrounded by thick brush near Highway 101 north of Healdsburg.

“He was in the pond, in two feet of water,” his father said. “We were able to pull him out and pull him to shore, and hold him and hug him. He looked like he was sound asleep.”

John Gomez, a longtime member of the Davis Police Department until his retirement in 2010, said his son was diagnosed as bipolar when he was 18 years old and the recent death of his beloved dog seemed to drive him into a manic phase earlier this month.

He believes that contributed to his son’s behavior when sheriff’s deputies pulled him over last week.

“He didn’t have a driver’s license and I’m sure in his manic state he got very concerned,” John Gomez said. “He got very agitated (and) they thought he was under the influence of a controlled substance.”

When deputies tried to pull him from the car, “James made a fatal mistake, and punched the gas,” his father said. “He ran over a deputy’s foot.”

After a short pursuit, deputies found the car crashed near a hairpin turn on Healdsburg Avenue. James Gomez’s girlfriend, Kelsey Stauffer, also of Davis, was arrested at the scene and later released, but James fled into the nearby brush.

“The last Kelsey saw was James running toward this swamp area, stripping off his clothes,” John Gomez said.

Authorities searched the area with dogs and helicopters for several hours but found no sign of James and his family began searching the following day.

“We went out into the field and started searching and calling his name,” John Gomez said. “Because we think he’s still alive and we’re calling him, ‘Come out,’ because we think he’s scared.”

They had fliers made and organized a search party on Facebook.

“We had 35, 40 people show up (Friday) morning in Sonoma County,” John Gomez said. “About two hours into the search, we found him.”

The Santa Rosa Police Department has opened an investigation into what transpired the night James Gomez was pulled over and in the subsequent days leading up to the discovery of his body.

But his father is adamant that his son was not under the influence of any controlled substances as deputies had alleged. Neither, he said, was Stauffer.

Both were, however, very sleep-deprived, he said.

The two had driven up to Fort Bragg on Sunday and John Gomez had grown increasingly concerned about his son’s mental state, particularly given the lengthy, rambling text messages he was sending.

John Gomez contacted the Fort Bragg police, requesting that they look for his son.

“I told them that he’s manic, he needs to be taken into custody, he’s talking about apocalyptic events,” John Gomez said. “Two hours later, they found him and called and said, ‘He’s not a danger to himself or others. He’s upset and agitated, but there’s nothing we can do.’ ”

“I said, ‘I’m his father, he’s bipolar, I need him placed on a hold.’ The sergeant said, ‘I can’t do that,’ ” John Gomez said.

Some time after that, Stauffer called James Gomez’s mother, Laura Blyth of Davis, and asked her to come get them, that she was scared, John Gomez said.

Blyth headed to Fort Bragg, but by the time she got there, the pair had left, headed to James’ grandmother’s house in Napa, his father said.

However, they were pulled over by Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies before they got there.

James Gomez, who his dad said attended Davis High School before graduating from King High School, was an avid hockey player who also loved skateboarding and spending time outdoors.

He had been taking classes at Sacramento City College and living at his mom’s house in Davis.

“He had so many friends,” John Gomez said. “He was such a good kid. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

Even when he was hospitalized following the bipolar diagnosis, his dad said, “he made a thousand friends. Everybody wanted to be with him.

“I’m lucky I had the last two years of a really positive relationship with him.”

In addition to his parents, James Gomez is survived by his sister, Sara, and brother, Ryan.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy



Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    UCD, UC team up to study effects of climate change

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Teens’ goal? Helping other soccer players around the world

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    There’s a plate for you at the Davis Holiday Meal

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Help sought in search for runaway Davis teen

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Feds release ‘framework’ to rate colleges

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Gunfire leads to DUI arrest

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Police seek suspect in hit-and-run collision

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Creative women share food, friendship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Konditorei presents free holiday concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Welcome 2015 with Mumbo Gumbo at a gala bash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Luminaria display planned in West Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Willett bench is a labor of love

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

    Author! Author! UCD hosts talks, Q and A on Asia-focused books

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Blue Christmas service planned at Davis churches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Libraries will be closed around the holidays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    See diving ducks at city wetlands tour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Downtown gift cards get a new perk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Nobel Prize winner will discuss research related to autism

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    A home for the holidays?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Explorit: Experience nano this spring

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Supplies collected for victims of abuse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Grandmothers support group meets weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

    Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11



    He needs them to pay up

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Kudos to Central Park Gardens donors and volunteers

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

    Cheers and Jeers: Have you ever seen the rain?

    By Our View | From Page: A14

    Defeating Ebola involves medicine, and prayers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14 | Gallery



    Cousins is back in lineup but Kings fall

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devil boys hold off scrappy Rio Linda

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Lady Blue Devils rout an undefeated Liberty squad

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD RB coach Wright heads to Florida; what next?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Aggies nab junior college defensive lineman

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Nostra-Dunning makes his college bowl picks

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

    Tennyson’s first goal is the difference in Sharks win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery



    Name droppers: Trio elected to academy of inventors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11



    ‘Before Midnight’ screening is tonight

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

    DMTC plans New Year’s Eve party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

    Tom Rigney and Flambeau to play

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

    DMTC announces auditions for ‘Sweeney Todd’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15



    After 19 years, Alfa Romeo returns

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: A16



    Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6