CARROLLTON — William Gomez and his two grandchildren have been found safe in Washington County, Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee and 860 miles from home.
The trio disappeared on Sunday afternoon after Gomez said he was taking the youngsters to a local park and then to a shopping mall in Lewisville.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Mr. Gomez flagged down a deputy on Highway 33 at 5:06 p.m. Tuesday and asked for directions back to Dallas. The deputy reported that all three were in good condition and were taken to a safe location.
The family said William Gomez was taken to a hospital for observation.
The discovery ends a three-day automotive odyssey that took Gomez and his grandchildren through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois before their discovery in Wisconsin.
William Gomez, eight-year-old Dominique and seven-year-old Marcus will remain in Wisconsin until family members can come to pick them up.
"It's great to know that they're safe, that they're not on the road, having an accident or something," said Maria Gomez, William's wife. "I'm surprised he drove all the way there. It's just amazing."
On Tuesday, evening family members finally received a phone call from Wisconsin and were able to talk with the children.
"It's like when hearing your kids, you're taken from zero to full power in a lightning flash," said Jose Gomez, the father of Dominique and Marcus.
Family members had not yet talked with William Gomez as of Tuesday night. They hope to know more about what happened in the coming days.
"It's wonderful to know that he's safe and that he's no longer driving and that he hasn't gotten into an accident," Maria Gomez said. quot;He kept thinking he's driving to Carrollton while he was driving all the way across the country without realizing it, I guess."
The Gomez family is leaving for Wisconsin on Wednesday and hope to be back before the end of the week.
WFAA's David Schechter and Jobin Panicker reported from Carrollton
Here is our earlier report on this story:
CARROLLTON — Inside the Gomez home Monday night, family members held frustrated conversations. It is easier than silence, which is too much to bear.
"They must be scared. They're not home," said Maria Gomez, talking about her two grandchildren than she has helped raise.
Eight-year-old Dominique, seven-year-old Marcus, and Maria's husband, 57-year-old William Gomez all disappeared mysteriously on Sunday.
Gomez wondered if her husband's issues with memory loss are to blame for the trio's disappearance. He said he was taking the kids to the park or the mall around two o'clock, but they never returned home.
"I think he is confused; he thinks he's driving home," she said. "He was raised in New Jersey, so he could be driving home... but we don't know."
What police do know is that someone using William Gomez's bank card purchased gasoline in northeast Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Troy, Tennessee Monday.
The card was then used to pay for a $21 charge at a Sears in Paducah, Kentucky. Police said surveillance video showed Gomez with the children in the store, buying underwear. He reportedly asked the clerk for directions back to Dallas.
Tuesday morning, Nicole Rodriguez with the Carrollton police said Gomez's most recent debit card activity was in the northwest corner of Indiana. They alerted the Indiana and Illinois state patrols as well as the National Center for Missing Children.
Then, Tuesday just before noon, the card was used in Skokie, Illinois, just north of Chicago.
The children's dad, Jose Gomez, constantly refreshes his father’s online bank account to see where the kids and his father may be.
“[B]y the time the police get to the spot, he['s] already [left,]" Maria Gomez said. "We don’t know, [they might miss him by] 20 minutes, 30 minutes.”
So far, William Gomez has used his debit card eight times across five states.
"He's stubborn that way. Even though he may think he's lost, he'll keep driving straight," said Maria Gomez.
She said he has a brother in New Jersey, but she doesn't think her husband is headed there.
"In his confused mind he’s trying to get home, and home is here,” she said.
But her husband has never disappeared like this. And he must know he's far far from home. Have they stopped for food, or sleep? The family can only pray they are pulled over soon and that they're safe.
The DPS alert you may have seen on the highways has been cancelled for Texas and Oklahoma, as it’s now clear Mr. Gomez is in the Midwest.
The Gomez family now hopes some alert folks up there will see the grandfather and his grandchildren.
He's believed to be driving a white Jeep Cherokee, license plate DH1-Y337. If you've seen them, please call police.
News 8's Marcus Moore, Marie Saavedra, Steve Stoler, and David Schechter contributed to this report.