PHOENIX — A judge on Friday sentenced an Arizona woman who
was convicted in her young son’s disappearance nearly three years ago to 5.25 years in prison.
Elizabeth Johnson, 26, faced two to nine years in prison for her custodial
interference and unlawful imprisonment convictions in the Christmastime 2009
disappearance of her then-8-month-old son, Gabriel.
She is being given credit for time served, meaning that Johnson will spend about 2.3 years in prison followed by four of probation so she can receive help.
Authorities said Johnson told the boy’s father that she killed Gabriel and
dumped him in a trash bin, but recanted and told police she gave the infant to a
couple at a San Antonio, Texas, park. She never provided the couple’s names.
Gabriel would have turned 3 this past April. Authorities don’t know if he’s
Prosecutors claimed Johnson ran off to Texas with the child as a way to
retaliate against his father for ending their tumultuous relationship. The
father isn’t suspected in the child’s disappearance.
In mid-October, a jury convicted Johnson of custodial interference and
conspiracy to commit custodial inference, but failed to reach a verdict a
kidnapping charge — the most serious count against her — and instead found her
guilty of a lesser count of unlawful imprisonment, meaning a maximum possible
prison sentence of 27 years was off the table.
Elizabeth Johnson’s attorney, Marc Victor has said his client is aware of the horrible mistakes that she has made,
regrets the grief she caused the boy’s father and described Johnson as an
unsophisticated single mother who was in a volatile relationship with the boy’s
father and was being manipulated by a woman who wanted to adopt Gabriel.
The boy was last seen with his mother on Dec. 26, 2009, at a hotel in San
Investigators said Johnson brought the child from Tempe to Texas, stayed for a
week and then took a bus to Florida without him. She was arrested in Florida on
Dec. 30, 2009.
Johnson had been fighting with the boy’s father about whether to give up
Gabriel for adoption. She signed over temporary guardianship of the boy to a
Scottsdale couple for about 10 days before she picked him up and left Arizona.
The would-be adoptive mother from Scottsdale, Tammi Peters Smith, was accused
of lying on a court document about the child’s possible paternity in an effort
to keep Gabriel from his father. Smith was convicted of forgery and conspiracy
to commit custodial interference.
In 2010, San Antonio police scoured a landfill that contained trash from the
hotel where Gabriel was last seen. The search turned up no body or other
The Associated Press contributed to this report.