Woman gets jail time in missing Arizona baby case

Jul 6, 2012, 9:03 AM | Updated: 4:59 pm


PHOENIX – The would-be adoptive mother of an Arizona baby missing for more
than two years was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail.

Tammi Peters Smith, 40, faced between one and 71/2 years in prison stemming
from her May conviction on charges of forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial
interference.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer instead sentenced Smith to
the jail term and three years of supervised probation for custodial
interference, plus three years of supervised probation and 30 days deferred jail
for the forgery conviction. He also said Smith was eligible for work release.

Kreamer said a prison term was unwarranted because Smith had no previous
criminal record. He also said Smith’s deferred jail term could go away with good
behavior and mental health counseling.

Prosecutors painted Smith as an “obsessed” woman who would stop at nothing to
win custody of the boy. Defense attorneys said she was just looking out for the
child and his mother.

Gabriel was 8 months old when he was last seen in December 2009 in San Antonio.

The boy’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson, had told the boy’s father that she killed
Gabriel and dumped him in a trash bin, but later recanted and said she gave the
baby to a couple in San Antonio. Johnson’s attorney maintains that the latter
story is the truth.

Gabriel has never been found, and police do not know whether he is alive. A
search at a landfill didn’t turn up anything.

Smith, of Scottsdale, told The Associated Press on Thursday that her lawyers
did not want her commenting on the case before her sentencing.

“I wouldn’t want to get the judge mad at something I might say or not say,”
she said.

Smith had been seeking to adopt Gabriel before Johnson left Arizona with him.

Prosecutors accused Smith of lying on a court document about the possible
paternity of the baby in an effort to keep Gabriel away from his father, Logan
McQueary, who testified against Smith.

Smith offered to adopt Gabriel from Johnson in June 2009 when the two met
during a long layover in Boston’s airport. Johnson didn’t decide to take her up
on it until six months later, the same month Gabriel disappeared.

Johnson, who turns 26 this month, signed over temporary guardianship of Gabriel
to Smith and her husband for about 10 days before she picked him up and left
Arizona. McQueary called police after he found Johnson’s Tempe trailer empty.

Investigators said that Johnson drove the boy to San Antonio, stayed about a
week then took a bus to Florida without him. She was arrested on Dec. 30, 2009,
in Florida and returned to Arizona.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse, kidnapping and
custodial interference; her trial is set to begin in September.

Although the judge ruled that Smith was eligible for probation, the jury in the
case found that there were aggravating factors, opening her up to a harsher
penalty. The aggravating factors were that the crimes caused emotional harm and
an accomplice was involved.

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Woman gets jail time in missing Arizona baby case