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Crime News Family Crimes

Where is Elizabeth Johnson, the Mother of Missing 8-Month-Old "Baby Gabriel"?

Elizabeth Johnson legally changed her name on multiple occasions since her 2014 release from prison. 

By Jax Miller

The 2009 abduction and disappearance of Gabriel Scott Johnson, commonly referred to as “Baby Gabriel,” remains a source of captivation and mystery.

In December 2009, the eight-month-old infant was reported missing after his mother, then-23-year-old Elizabeth Johnson, failed to present the child to his father, who was just awarded physical and joint legal custody, according to Maricopa County prosecutors in Arizona. Ms. Johnson and Logan McQueary, of Tempe, Arizona, were embroiled in a months-long battle over Johnson wanting to place their child for adoption, which McQueary contested.

Investigators say Johnson fled for Texas after making damning remarks to her ex that he’d never see the child again, though there were several sightings of the child and his mother some 1,000 miles from Tempe. Mother and child were spotted at multiple San Antonio-area motels in the ensuing days, the last being Dec. 27, 2009, per Arizona’s East Valley Tribune.

RELATED: Reporter Recalls Filming Amber Hagerman For Documentary Just Before 9-Year-Old's Tragic Kidnapping

Around that time, Johnson sent McQuery texts and placed several calls (recorded by McQuery and later presented in court), claiming she suffocated Gabriel to death, put his body in a diaper bag, and disposed of the bag in a dumpster. She told McQuery that was “the price you pay” for talking to women outside the relationship, per transcripts obtained by CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV and reported by CBS News.

Massive searches of dumpsters and landfills were fruitless, and Gabriel's body was never found.

Several people were charged in connection with the disappearance, including Johnson, who was found living in a Miami, Florida, hostel on Dec. 30, 2009, days after Gabriel was last seen. The mother was charged with kidnapping, custodial interference, conspiracy to commit custodial interference, and child abuse, the latter of which was eventually dismissed.

In 2012, Johnson was convicted by a Maricopa County jury of the custodial interference charges, plus a lesser count of unlawful imprisonment, and sentenced to five years and three months behind bars.

Today, she is free.

Is Baby Gabriel still alive?

The high-profile case divided experts and the public alike, especially since one of the San Antonio-area motels was rumored to be a front for an underground adoption ring, though reports remain unsubstantiated. Today, many still believe Gabriel is alive, and no one has been charged with his death, as documented in the documentary Where is Baby Gabriel?, streaming now on Peacock.

Johnson, who said she lied to McQueary about killing the baby, changed her story that she left Gabriel in the care of a random couple she’d met in a park while still in Texas, according to Maricopa County prosecutors. According to ABC News, no evidence was found to support those claims, though it wasn’t the first time the adoption theory was raised.

Six months before Gabriel disappeared, Johnson traveled with the child to Boston, Massachusetts, to visit her grandmother following an argument with McQueary, prosecutors stated. While en route back to Arizona, Johnson met former exotic dancer and aspiring country singer Tammi Peters Smith of Scottsdale, Arizona, a woman painted by prosecutors as someone desperate to have a child of her own after previously placing her own children for adoption.

During a layover in Indianapolis, Smith agreed that she and her husband would adopt baby Gabriel.

On Dec. 9. 2009, Johnson signed paperwork that gave Smith and her spouse temporary guardianship, leaving the baby with the Arizona couple. However, McQueary, refusing to surrender his parental rights, was awarded custody on Dec. 17.

McQueary notified Tempe police when Johnson refused to present the child on Dec. 20, as required by the court.

For her part, Smith was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit custodial interference and forgery after it was discovered she doctored documents challenging McQueary’s paternity, per The Tribune. In 2012, she was sentenced to 30 days in prison.

Johnson has since maintained that Baby Gabriel is still alive.

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

Where is Elizabeth Johnson now?

Elizabeth Johnson was released from prison on July 10, 2014, having served about one and a half years of her sentence due to time served and good behavior, according to The Arizona Republic. Nearly two years later, she was arrested for a litany of probation violations, including associating with someone with a criminal record, failing to report a marriage from 2015, and not seeking permission from authorities in New Mexico (where she then lived) before traveling to Texas.

Johnson admitted to the latter of the three charges and did a short stint in jail, while the other charges were eventually dropped.

In 2021, ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV reported Johnson, who’d by then legally changed her name to Elizabeth Martinez, was 30 weeks into another pregnancy. According to KPHO-TV, she gave birth to a daughter that same year.

Sandy Peters, Gabriel's great aunt, told the CBS affiliate, she was less than thrilled to hear of Johnson having a second child. 

"It's frustrating to know that she does have this beautiful little girl that she's getting to be 'Mommy' to, and yet Logan isn't getting a chance to be 'Daddy' to Gabriel," said Peters.

In 2022, Gabriel’s mother legally changed her name once again, this time to Naomi Aragon, per the CBS affiliate. She cited “stalker harassment” for the new moniker, though some speculated it was a ploy ahead of the Peacock docuseries’ release, which heightened publicity.

Elizabeth Johnson was last reported to reside in New Mexico.

Today, Gabriel Johnson would be 14 years old.

Anyone with information on Gabriel’s disappearance is urged to contact the San Antonio Police Department at 1-210-207-7660 or the Tempe Police Department at 1-480-350-8311.

See more about the real-life case on Where is Baby Gabriel?, available to stream now on Peacock.

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