Opening arguments in Tempe mom's trial in 'Baby Gabriel' case to begin Thursday - East Valley Tribune: Public Safety

Opening arguments in Tempe mom's trial in 'Baby Gabriel' case to begin Thursday

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Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 3:53 pm | Updated: 12:02 am, Mon Sep 24, 2012.

More than two years after the disappearance of then 7-month old “Baby Gabriel,” the trial of his mother, Elizabeth Johnson, who has said she killed him and also that she gave him away, is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Jury selection for the case concluded on Tuesday and opening arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer’s courtroom.

Johnson, 26, has been incarcerated in a Maricopa County jail without bond since January, 2010.

In mid-December 2009, Johnson, then 23, took Gabriel to San Antonio, Tex in the midst of a custody battle with her estranged boyfriend and father of the child, Logan McQueary of Gilbert. She was arrested at a hostel in Miami, Fla. on Dec. 30 without the boy while waiting on her grandmother to move from Boston to Florida before Johnson was extradited to Arizona. During a phone call with Johnson that McQueary recorded, she told him that she killed Gabriel, stuffed his “little blue body” in a diaper bag and “threw him in the Dumpster.” After FBI agents arrested her, she told them that she gave Gabriel to a couple she did not know at the Homegate Inn and Suites motel where she was staying in San Antonio, a day after meeting the couple at a park. Gabriel was last seen on Dec. 27, 2009, according to court documents.

Authorities do not know whether Gabriel is alive or dead. If alive, he would be 3 years old. Charged with kidnapping and custodial interference, Johnson faces anywhere from nine months to 20 years in prison if convicted after the trial, which is projected to last for at least the next three months, according to prosecutors.

During the course of the court proceedings, which have garnered national attention, a landfill search for the child’s remains in San Antonio was unsuccessful, two independent investigations by two different high-profile private investigators who believe the boy still is alive abruptly ended for financial reasons, and Johnson has twice been ruled incompetent to stand trial but now has been mentally restored to competency.

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.

It was not known whether Johnson, who has appeared at recent hearings looking haggard and disheveled, will be present in court for the opening arguments on Thursday.

Johnson’s attorney, Marc Victor, was not available for comment on Tuesday.

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