Jury begins deliberations in Baby Gabriel case
After weeks of trial, 29 prosecution witnesses, lengthy audio tapes, and a day of closing arguments, the jury has begun deliberations in the trial of the mother of missing Baby Gabriel.
Elizabeth Johnson, 26, faces up to 27 years in prison if convicted on counts of kidnapping, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference.
The prosecution introduced evidence that Johnson texted and called Gabriel’s father, Logan McQueary, and told him that she killed Gabriel, suffocated him, put “his little blue body” into a diaper bag and threw him in the trash.
Johnson later changed her story to police, telling them that she gave her baby away to a couple she met in a park in San Antonio. However, she said she didn’t know their names or how to contact them.
The conspiracy charge centers around a relationship Johnson formed with a Scottsdale woman, Tammi Smith, who wanted to adopt Gabriel and allegedly assisted Johnson in her efforts to prevent McQueary from having custody of Gabriel in violation of a court order. Smith was convicted in May of conspiracy to commit custodial interference and forgery for her actions involving Baby Gabriel.
Defense attorney Marc Victor said in his closing argument Tuesday that Johnson is guilty of custodial interference, but not kidnapping. “This case is a horribly, horribly, ugly, ugly, custodial-interference case,” Victor said. “It may be the ugliest custodial-interference case in the history of the Earth, but it is not kidnapping. … It is not even close.”
He told the jury he did not expect them to like his client but urged them to look at whether the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt each element of each offense charged, and he asked them to do what is right.
He compared the public pressure to convict Johnson to that faced by John Adams for defending the British officers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre. He even compared the jury’s responsibility in this case to the recent controversial Sunday Night Football game between the Packers and Seahawks where he said the officials may have been biased by a desire to please the home crowd in deciding to call a catch at the end of the game a touchdown instead of an interception. He told the jury to ignore the public pressure and focus on the evidence or lack thereof.
Deputy County Attorney Elisa Ramunno said that Johnson clearly committed kidnapping by taking Gabriel from one location to another after fleeing Arizona on Dec. 18, 2009.
Gabriel has been missing since December, 2009. No body has been found. He was eight months old at the time of his disappearance.
Ryan Kerns, Esq., Wild About Trial
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