Jury selection to begin in ‘Baby Gabriel’ case

CNN Wire Service

Jury selection begins Wednesday in the trial of Elizabeth Johnson, who is charged with kidnapping, custodial interference and child abuse in the case of her missing son Gabriel.

The infant was last seen in a Texas motel in 2009. He was 8 months old then, and his disappearance is still a mystery.

On December 17, 2009, a judge awarded Johnson and Logan McQueary, the boy’s father, 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, when she reportedly sent him a text message saying she’d killed Gabriel and put his body in a Dumpster.

She was arrested on December 30, 2009, in Miami Beach, Florida.

Johnson told police that she’d given the boy to a unknown couple she met up with in San Antonio. She later told police she did this under the direction of a woman named Tammi Smith.

Johnson and Smith had met in June 2009, when both women were waiting for the same flight in the Indianapolis airport. Smith suggested to the young mother that she and her husband adopt Gabriel, with Johnson eventually calling her in December to ask if the couple was still interested in adopting.

In May, Smith was found guilty of forgery and conspiracy to interfere with the custody of Gabriel Johnson. In July, she was sentenced to probation and 30 days in jail.

Smith’s conviction does not relate to the boy’s disappearance, but her efforts to conspire with Johnson to deny McQueary his rights to see his son.

Jurors also accepted prosecutors’ argument that Smith falsely wrote the name of her cousin on a paternity document to falsely assert that he — and not McQueary — was Gabriel’s father.

The defendant addressed the court at the time, admitting that she helped Johnson and helped care for Gabriel for nine days.

Smith, 40, eventually apologized for any “pain and suffering” that helping Johnson may have caused, even as she firmly insisted that her intentions were good.

“I never intended to hurt anybody,” Johnson said, adding that she just wanted to help a single mother who she felt was in need. “I pray every day that Gabriel is alive and that he is found.”

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer sentenced Smith to 30 days in jail on one count, plus a deferred 30-day jail sentence on the other count that he said she’d likely not serve. She also faces two three-year probation sentences for each conviction.