Two days before firefighters found 5-year-old Jude Murray-Gomez’s body wrapped in a smoldering blanket, El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies searched his mother’s apartment — concerned she was violating a custody order.
They left thinking she had moved out.
Details of Jude’s last week alive began to emerge Wednesday, signaling growing concern among family and law enforcement officers for the boy’s welfare, because his mother, Shannon Dodson, violated a custody order by not returning him to his father Nov. 3.
Dodson was arrested Saturday on suspicion of first degree murder and remained in the El Paso County jail Wednesday, held without bond.
On Nov. 8, after neighbors noticed smoke coming from her apartment, firefighters entered and found her sitting naked and wet in a closet at the apartment. Jude and Dodson were taken to Memorial Hospital Central where the child was pronounced dead.
When Colorado Springs police went to the hospital on Saturday to confront Dodson, she became emotional and had just one thing to say. “I killed my son,” said Dodson, according to an arrest affidavit.
While investigating the blaze, firefighters tossed a flaming mattress out a window only to find Jude lying lifeless and wrapped in a blanket near the box spring, a court document said.
The door to the apartment had been barricaded from the inside, the affidavit said, and the bathtub was full of water and burned wooden matches were found near the box spring. One firefighter took the boy outside and began pumping his chest. The affidavit said “water was coming from Jude’s mouth” during the chest compressions.
An autopsy by the El Paso County Coroner’s Office later determined that Jude drowned.
It appears that Jude was never supposed to be with Dodson in the days leading up to his death, according to court documents and law enforcement officials.
The child’s father, who is also named Jude Gomez, and his grandmother had successfully battled Dodson since December 2012 for custody of the boy, citing Dodson’s neglect and suspected drug abuse, the affidavit said.
Dodson could only have custody of Jude on weekends, the affidavit said.
On Nov. 3, when Jude was supposed to have returned home, Jude’s father and grandmother went to Dodson’s apartment, but no one answered the door, the affidavit said.
Colorado Springs police responded to Dodson’s apartment on a welfare check requested by his grandmother. But police said they were not able to contact anyone but a neighbor, who reported seeing Jude and Dodson earlier that day.
The neighbor told police that they both appeared to be fine.
On Nov. 6, sheriff’s deputies searched the apartment on a court order and found the apartment empty, but for a few pieces of furniture.
“Most of the personal belongings were gone,” said Sheriff’s Deputy spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer. “There was a lot of information on scene to suggest the family had moved out.”
That included a notice on the door to vacate within three days.
On Nov. 7, after following up on two additional addresses and a phone number provided by family members, deputies still had no leads and asked family members to call them if they came across additional information, Kramer said.
That night, however, a neighbor outside the apartment saw Dodson standing inside her home, “smiling and looking down talking to someone,” the affidavit said.
The next day, firefighters responded to Dodson’s burning apartment and found Jude dead.
Dodson’s daughter, Miranda Garver, told police that her mother said on Nov. 3 that she did not want to return the boy to his father.
Casey Poe, another one of Dodson’s daughters, told detectives that her mother spoke with her on Nov. 4 and said she “wanted to die and would kill Jude and kill herself.” The affidavit noted that Dodson later said she would not do it.
Dodson took the boy once before without staying in touch with family members, the affidavit said.
When Jude was 6 months old, she moved with him to Pennsylvania until October 2012, police wrote in the affidavit. Felix Gomez, the boy’s grandfather who lives in Kentucky, said he has been receiving updates from his son, the boy’s father, since the fire.
“I understand they have a lot of questions as to, of course you know, could it have possibly been prevented?” Felix Gomez said. “Had the police been a little more thorough in searching ... But these are things we’ll never know.”
Dodson will have her first appearance in 4th Judicial District Court on Friday.
— Gazette reporter Matt Steiner contributed to this story.