Baby Gabriel’s Mom Found Guilty

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(CNN) — Elizabeth Johnson — whose 8-month-old baby, Gabriel, disappeared in 2009 after she allegedly took him to Texas — was found guilty Thursday of unlawful imprisonment and custodial interference in the case.

Johnson was originally charged with kidnapping, but the jury didn’t rule on that charge.

After the verdict, the trial entered another phase, in which the jury will decide if there were aggravating circumstances. The state called one witness, one of the still-missing baby’s grandfathers, Frank McQueary. Then attorneys for each side presented closing arguments.

Gabriel Johnson was 8 months old when he was last spotted alive at a Texas motel in late 2009.

Johnson’s attorneys didn’t present any evidence during the trial or call a witness, CNN affiliate KPHO-TV reported.

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.

“I killed him,” Johnson said in a text to McQueary on December 27, 2009. “U will never see Gabriel again, I made sure of that. And you can spend the rest of ur pathetic life wondering about him.”

The scathing series of texts continued.

“U will never find me im already bording a plane. Out of the country,” Johnson said. “When im safe ill email u the exact location of dead gabriels little blue body. If the garbage don’t come first.”

McQueary also recorded a phone call from Johnson in which she made similar claims.

Johnson: “You made me do this.”

McQueary: “You did not hurt Gabriel.”

Johnson: “Yes, I did. I suffocated him. …. I suffocated him and he turned blue. And I put him in his diaper bag and I put him in the trash can.”

She later recanted her statements, KPHO reported.

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

She told police that she’d given the boy to a unknown couple she met up with in San Antonio. She said she did so 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. Johnson said she called Smith that December to ask if the couple was still interested.

In May, Smith was found guilty of forgery and conspiracy to interfere with Gabriel’s custody. 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.

Smith told the court that she helped Johnson and helped care for Gabriel for nine days.

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

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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