Where is Baby Gabriel?
Gabriel Scott Johnson has been missing for six months, and his whereabouts and well-being remain a mystery. His mother, Elizabeth Johnson, remains incarcerated in a Maricopa County jail on a $1.1 million cash bond on charges in connection to his disappearance and currently is incompetent to stand trial.
In the midst of a custody battle, Johnson, 23, of Tempe, told Logan McQueary, her estranged boyfriend and the child's father, on Dec. 27 that said she killed the then 7-month-old baby, stuffed his body in a diaper bag and threw it into a dumpster in San Antonio, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents.
She later told authorities that she gave Gabriel to a couple she had never met in the parking lot of motel in San Antonio a day after meeting them in a park, sparking national media attention and a search that included the FBI, two renowned private investigators and McQueary himself. For reasons unknown, San Antonio was the first destination entered into a GPS device Johnson had that was confiscated by police.
The boy was last seen at a HomeGate Studios and Suites in San Antonio on Dec. 26, purportedly a meeting place for underground adoptions, according to authorities. Johnson, who was arrested in Miami Beach, Fla. on Dec. 30 without the child, is charged with kidnapping, child abuse, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference.
Sandy Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the San Antonio Police Department, told the Tribune on Thursday that there have been no developments in the case since March 12. That was the day investigators ended a 16-day excavation of a landfill in San Antonio after sifting through 4,260 tons of trash in an attempt to find any of the boy's remains or evidence that would help the case. Police also would not say whether they were able to locate a young Hispanic man, a known drug dealer, seen with Johnson at a motel in San Antonio where she was staying, according to authorities. Nor did they release the man's name.
Gutierrez also said that the police department has received very few tips in the last three months.
"As unfortunate as it may be, nothing new has developed," Gutierrez said.
But by nearly all accounts, the search for the missing child remains ongoing and active and still is being investigated as both a homicide and a missing persons case. The family of McQueary said they remain in contact with authorities at least once a week, but could not release details of the investigation.
A statement issued to the Tribune from the McQueary family said, "We are unable to comment any further regarding the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Gabriel, except to confirm that law enforcement continues to investigate all leads."
Three Facebook pages have been set up for the missing boy: "Help Find Baby Gabriel," "Help Find Missing Baby Gabriel," and "Find Baby Gabriel."
Gabriel Johnson, who has light brown hair and blue eyes, now would be 1-year-old.
Tammi Smith, 38, of Scottsdale, the woman who had expressed interest in adopting Gabriel and provided false and misleading statements to Tempe police during their investigation, has been charged with forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference in connection with the case.
Smith is waiting to resume court proceedings after Johnson's competency level is restored through medical treatment and counseling, which she now is undergoing.
McQueary, 25, of Gilbert, had spent a short time living in San Antonio searching for clues that had been overlooked in his son's disappearance, but has since returned to Valley where he has obtained a job, according to his aunt, Kelli McQueary. He could not be reached for comment.
Jay J. Armes, a private investigator based in El Paso, Texas, and his associates initially had assisted McQueary in the search. Later on, Australia-based private investigator Ken Gamble also participated in the search, but he resigned from the case on June 5 due to lack of funding, according to Kelli McQueary and Gamble. Both Armes and Gamble strongly believed through evidence and information they reviewed from the case that Gabriel still is alive.