The mother of missing baby Gabriel Johnson is competent to stand trial and capable of understanding the charges brought against her, a Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner ruled on Thursday.
Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Steve Holding upheld last month’s determinations of two court-appointed doctors in a report that Elizabeth Johnson’s mental restoration process was complete and she was competent to stand trial despite claims by her attorneys that she wasn’t.
Johnson’s attorneys, Nicholas Alcock and Adam Feldman, who did not receive the report on Johnson’s level of competency until the day of the last hearing on Aug. 21, said they now are ready to move forward in the case, as is Johnson.
Johnson, 24, is being held in Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail on a $1.1 million cash bond in connection with the disappearance of her then 8-month-old son, Gabriel, last seen Dec. 26 in San Antonio, Texas. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, child abuse, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference.
In the midst of a custody battle, Johnson drove her grandfather’s car to San Antonio with Gabriel where she said she gave the boy to a couple at a HomeGate Inn and Suites motel a day after she met them at a park there, according to a court document. Johnson also told her estranged boyfriend and the boy’s father, Logan McQueary, via text message and a recorded telephone call that she killed Gabriel, stuffed his body in a diaper bag and threw it in a Dumpster, according to a court document.
It is not known whether Gabriel is alive or dead as Johnson has continued to refuse to cooperate with authorities on Gabriel’s whereabouts or well being. Gabriel Johnson turned 1 year old in May.
Johnson also refused to be transported out her jail cell on Thursday for the hearing. The judge previously ruled that Johnson does not have to be transported to attend the hearings, according to Alcock.
“We wanted additional time to review the report and have our experts take a look at it,” Alcock told the Tribune on Thursday. “We wanted to be in a position to digest what the findings in the report were. We have submitted that report to the judge, and basically, it is our belief, as is our client, not to cause any unnecessary delay in the proceedings.”
Johnson initially was ruled incompetent to stand trial in June, but her mental competency was deemed restorable through medication and counseling.
“Miss Johnson does understand the proceedings and is therefore competent to stand trial,” said Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Steven Holding.
The next hearing involving the case, which has received national attention, is scheduled Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court so the defense and prosecution can begin mapping out a plan of how to move forward, Alcock said.
Johnson’s grandfather, Robert Johnson, who was present for the hearing on Thursday, said he believes Elizabeth knows what she’s doing.
“I don’t really understand what her strategy was for using incompetency as a defense,” Johnson said. “She’s competent and they’re going to go to trial. That ought to produce a different direction. She chose that kind of behavior, and now, she must face the consequences.”