Missing baby's body could be in San Antonio landfill

Gabriel Johnson

Managers of a San Antonio landfill have blocked off an area that might be searched for the body of an Arizona baby who has been missing for about a month, but police said Wednesday that they weren't searching the site and didn't specify whether they planned to do so.

A portion of the Tessman Road Landfill was cordoned off in the last few weeks as part of the investigation into the disappearance of 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson of Tempe, Ariz., according to Peg Mulloy, spokeswoman for landfill owner Phoenix-based Republic Services.

She said landfill managers identified the area based on where Gabriel was last seen on Dec. 26. She added that the cordoned-off area was larger than a convenience-store parking lot.

"We're able to say trash from this particular neighborhood on this particular date is probably in this area (of the landfill)," she said. "We stopped placing waste in an area they may want to search, and we're waiting for them to tell us what they would like to do."

San Antonio police spokeswoman Sandy Gutierrez said she could not say whether investigators were planning to search the site, citing the integrity of the investigation.

Gabriel's mother, 23-year-old Elizabeth Johnson, was arrested Dec. 30 in Florida and is charged in Arizona with kidnapping, child abuse and custodial interference.

Police say she drove Gabriel to San Antonio from Tempe, stayed about a week, then took a bus to Florida without him.

She has refused to say where the baby is, but told Gabriel's father she killed him. She also has said she gave the baby away to a couple in San Antonio.

Early in their investigation, Tempe police said they were optimistic that Gabriel was alive and were looking into a potential underground adoption.

"The information is coming in much slower, and the indicators that were once there are getting less and less to the point of becoming nonexistent," Tempe police Sgt. Steve Carbajal said. "At this point, we're looking seriously into the possibility that she killed Gabriel like she said she did."

Gabriel's father, Logan McQueary, told police that Johnson said she put the boy's body in a diaper bag and threw it in the trash.

Phoenix television station KPHO reported that McQueary showed them a text message he said he received from Johnson on Dec. 27.

"And you can spend the rest of your pathetic life wondering about him," according to the message. "I'm already boarding a plane out of the country. When I'm safe, I'll e-mail you the exact location of dead Gabriel's little blue body, if the garbage don't come first."

Carbajal declined to confirm whether Johnson sent the message, citing the ongoing investigation.

McQueary did not return calls for comment, but has said he plans to retrace Johnson's steps to San Antonio in hopes of helping find his son.

Meanwhile, a Scottsdale couple who wanted to adopt Gabriel remains "persons of interest" in the case. Johnson gave Jack and Tammi Smith temporary guardianship over Gabriel for about 10 days in December before she picked him up and left Arizona.

Results from a lie-detector test taken by the couple were inconclusive, and Carbajal said the Smiths haven't told police all they know, although he declined to elaborate. Police searched the couple's home this month.

The Smiths said they've been nothing but cooperative and want Gabriel to be found alive.

"We're sitting here still considered persons of interest but yet we've done absolutely everything they asked us to do," Jack Smith told The Associated Press. "If there's anything left for them to do, we don't understand what they're waiting for."