Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News Peacock

Mystery Shrouds Disappearance of Baby Gabriel, Who Was Kidnapped By Mother a Decade Ago

In 2009, authorities began searching for the baby after his father, Logan McQueary, reported him missing.

By Cydney Contreras

More than a decade has passed since Logan McQueary last saw his son, 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson.

"I gave him a kiss and put him in his bed and that was the last time I saw him," McQueary told Good Morning America in January 2010. 

At the time, McQueary and girlfriend Elizabeth Johnson were embroiled in a bitter custody dispute. And though Johnson had sought to place Gabriel for adoption, she didn't want McQueary to have their son either. So when she lost custody of Gabriel after failing to show up for a custody hearing, she fled Arizona with the baby, setting off a strange series of events that are detailed in the documentary Where Is Baby Gabriel?, streaming now on Peacock.

RELATED: How Did Caylee Anthony Die? Breaking Down The Theories In The Controversial Case

What happened to baby Gabriel?

Shortly before Johnson disappeared with Gabriel, she met Arizona couple Jack and Tammi Smith while at an Indianapolis airport. "I saw her distraught and crying with a newborn baby," Tammi told Good Morning America. "And that doesn't look like a mother that wants to be a mother."

Tammi helped Johnson comfort Gabriel and purportedly offered to adopt the child — an idea that Johnson seriously entertained. She let the Smiths, who also lived in Arizona, care for the baby for nine days before McQueary learned of the potential adoption. Once he found out, he took Johnson to court and was awarded shared custody of the then-8-month-old on December 17, 2009, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Then, the day after Christmas, Johnson left the state, traveling from Tempe, Arizona to San Antonio, Texas. In the process, she missed a scheduled custody hearing and lost custody of Gabriel. 

When confronted by McQueary about their whereabouts, Johnson said that she'd never let him have custody of the child. 

"She basically said, 'There is no way in hell you will see your son again,'" McQueary said, according to Good Morning America. "She put in the text, 'I killed him.'"

In a recorded phone call, Johnson claimed to have killed the baby, saying, "I suffocated him, then I put him in a diaper bag and I put him in a trash can," Inside Edition reported.

She added that she was motivated to kill Gabriel after learning that McQueary had allegedly cheated on her. "You want to talk to girls, that's the price you pay," Johnson said. "Don't you care about me? All you care about is Gabriel and he's gone now. You know what I'm capable of and you pushed me anyway. You destroyed my life."

Additionally, the Smiths reached out to McQueary, asking him to relinquish custody to Johnson, who, in exchange, would return Gabriel. They said that Johnson asked them to make this request, according to Good Morning America

"The father and Jack and I were in constant contact when we found out Elizabeth fled with the baby," Tammi said. "When we finally got to speak to Elizabeth, she was so angry with the whole situation and told me, 'I have one message to give to Logan.'"

A photo of Elizabeth Johnson, mother of missing baby Gabriel, at a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.

Is baby Gabriel alive?

As police searched landfills and trash bins across San Antonio, Johnson traveled east to Miami, Florida, where she was eventually arrested on charges of kidnapping, child abuse and custodial interference on December 30, 2009, per the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. The Child Abuse count was later dismissed. Confronted by detectives, Johnson said that she lied about killing Gabriel to get back at McQueary.

"He had ruined my life and he hurt me and I wanted to hurt him," she said, according to ABC News. "And that was the only thing I could say that would hurt him."

Instead of killing Gabriel, Johnson said, she arranged for a couple, described as young and Caucasian, to adopt him.

"I made a hasty decision and I thought it was OK," Johnson said in a jailhouse interview, according to Good Morning America. "They approached me. I was out alone with the baby at the park. I trusted them, I believe in my heart they are good people."

Tammi Smith, center, reacts after being found guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.

Did they ever find baby Gabriel?

To this day, authorities have not been able to find the couple or determine if Gabriel is still alive. 

Tammi Smith has denied any involvement in Gabriel's disappearance and was found guilty of forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference. She was sentenced to 30 days in prison, according to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office

In 2012, Johnson was convicted of unlawful imprisonment, custodial interference, and conspiracy to commit custodial interference — she was never charged with murder since authorities could not prove that Gabriel was dead. At her sentencing, she apologized for taking Gabriel away but denied that she hurt him.

"I have to live every day without my son and without knowing where he is,” she said, People reported. "That is the worst pain and punishment I could ever have."

To learn more about the investigation into Gabriel's whereabouts and hear from McQueary, watch Where Is Baby Gabriel?, streaming now on Peacock.

Read more about: