For nearly three years, most of the court proceedings involving missing Baby Gabriel Johnson have centered around his mother, Elizabeth Johnson, who has said both that she killed the boy and that she gave him to a couple she did not know when she took him to San Antonio in the midst of a custody battle.
But on Monday, Gabriel’s father, Logan McQueary of Gilbert, testified for nearly two hours in the case, answering questions about himself, the couple once interested in adopting Baby Gabriel (Jack and Tammi Smith of Scottsdale), his own criminal history and events that led up to his then 7-month-old son’s disappearance that garnered national media attention.
McQueary’s statements — including him talking in detail of the Dec. 27, 2009 text and phone call he recorded when Johnson told him she suffocated their son and how she would tell him where his body was once she made it out of the country — marked the first of numerous key players who will testify in the high-profile trial that is expected to last for the next few months.
Johnson, 26, who took Gabriel to San Antonio in mid-December 2009, has been incarcerated in a Maricopa County jail without bond on charges of kidnapping, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference since her arrest in Florida on Dec. 30, 2009. Monday, she was present with her attorney, Marc Victor, in Judge Joseph Kreamer’s courtroom for McQueary’s testimony, wearing a purple shirt and black pants.
Prosecutors have built their case on the foundation that Gabriel was a pawn and a tool for Johnson to use as revenge against McQueary. He testified about their rocky relationship, how he had been recording his conversations with Johnson before custody hearings, how he trusted the Smiths less and less as the couple had asked him to sign adoption papers during the ordeal if he wanted to see Gabriel safe again.
McQueary last saw Gabriel on Dec. 8, 2009, after Tempe police told him to return the child to Johnson. That was about a day after McQueary’s father, Frank McQueary, had picked Gabriel up at daycare when Johnson couldn’t. Johnson had filed a kidnapping complaint against McQueary with police and in the days that followed, Johnson allowed Gabriel to live with the Smiths until she took him to San Antonio, where police still consider Gabriel a missing person. Tempe police had conducted a welfare check at Smith’s residence on the child before Johnson left for San Antonio, but after the Smiths showed them the adoption papers only signed by Johnson, an officer allowed the Smiths to keep Gabriel. McQueary testified that police told him that his son was safe, but would not tell him where he was.
McQueary and Johnson initially agreed to share custody of Gabriel, but when he called Johnson on Dec. 18 to tell her that he would be coming to pick Gabriel up on Dec. 20, she told him that he would never see Gabriel again, he testified. He went to the Tempe residence he formerly shared with Johnson, but Johnson and Gabriel already were gone, McQueary said.
“I never saw him again,” said McQueary, who testified that Johnson kept pushing him to sign the adoption papers so the Smiths could adopt Gabriel as Johnson wanted to “get out and start doing more things” and go back to school.
Gabriel was last seen on Dec. 27, 2009, appearing groggy from medication in pictures that were retrieved from Johnson’s camera confiscated by authorities at the time of her arrest.
Authorities do not know whether Gabriel is alive. He would be slightly more than 3 years old.
When Maricopa County deputy attorney Angela Andrews asked McQueary if he had ever considered putting up Gabriel for adoption, he said that before Gabriel was born, they discussed the possibility of it in the event Gabriel became too much for them to take care of, and that he did not discuss it any further and that he wanted to take care of Gabriel.
“We wanted to start a family,” McQueary said.
The case of Tammi Smith, 40, the Scottsdale woman once interested in adopting Gabriel, ended more than a month ago. Charged with forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference in connection to the case, she was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years probation.
Johnson’s attorney, Marc Victor said after McQueary’s testimony that there were “no surprises,” and he decided not to cross-examine McQueary.
The trial resumed on Tuesday, a hearing in which McQueary’s father, Frank McQueary testified.
The trial, which also will include the testimony of police officers involved in the case early on, will continue the rest of the week.
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