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Get caught up on the Elizabeth Johnson trial

  • Opening statements in the Elizabeth Johnson trial start Thursday
  • Johnson is the mother of missing little Gabriel Johnson
  • Johnson is being tried for kidnapping and custodial interference for her role in her son's disappearance
Get caught up on the Elizabeth Johnson trial

Little Gabriel Johnson was 7 months old when he was last seen alive.

That was at a motel in Texas in 2009. His mother, Elizabeth Johnson, allegedly told Baby Gabriel's father she killed their son and put his body in a Dumpster. Later, she told police she drove from her home in Arizona to Texas and gave him to a couple she met in a San Antonio park. Johnson has been in a Phoenix jail cell since 2010 awaiting her trial that starts Thursday.

She is being tried for kidnapping and custodial interference. Gabriel's disappearance is still a mystery.

"I suffocated him. I suffocated him, and he turned blue, and I put him in his diaper bag and put him in the trash can," Johnson allegedly told Gabriel’s father Logan McQueary in a phone call the day after the child was last seen alive. Police released a recording of the conversation to the public.

Johnson later told police that she killed her child out of revenge, because McQueary was having affairs with other women.

She changed her story later to say that she gave the child away.

Then came Tammi Smith, who earlier this year was tried for her role in Gabriel’s disappearance. She and Johnson allegedly met in June 2009, when both women were waiting for the same flight at the Indianapolis airport. In statements to police, Smith described the 23-year-old Johnson as looking "scared" and "depressed." Smith said she suggested to Johnson that she (Smith) and her husband adopt Gabriel.

Smith did not hear from Johnson again until that December, when Johnson called to ask if the Smiths were still interested in the adoption. At the time, Johnson was entangled in a custody dispute with Gabriel's father, McQueary. 

In court documents, prosecutors allege that Smith and her husband pressured McQueary into surrendering custody so they could adopt Gabriel, and that Smith falsely wrote the name of her cousin on a paternity document as Gabriel's possible father.

On December 17, 2009, a judge awarded Johnson and McQueary joint custody of Gabriel, but Johnson allegedly defied the ruling and set out for Texas with her son. McQueary didn't hear from Johnson until several days later. She was arrested on December 30, 2009, in Miami Beach, Florida. She told police she gave the baby to a unknown couple she met up with in San Antonio. Later, Johnson told police Smith told her to give Gabriel to the couple.

In May, an Arizona jury found Smith guilty of forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference for her role in the baby's disappearance. Smith served 30 days in a jail and is now serving three years of probation.

Read more: Tammi Smith guilty in Baby Gabe case


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