PHOENIX — An Arizona woman charged in the disappearance of her infant son more than two years ago was consumed with anger over the demise of her romantic ties with his father and used the boy as a pawn in their disputes, a prosecutor said Tuesday in closing arguments at the woman's trial.
Elizabeth Johnson ran off to another state with the child as a way to retaliate against his father, Logan McQueary, for ending their tumultuous relationship, prosecutor Angela Andrews said.
"She wants to get back at Logan, and she is upset, and she uses the one thing that would hurt Logan more than anything," Andrews said.
Johnson, 26, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial inference in the December 2009 disappearance of her then-8-month-old son, Gabriel. She faces up to 27 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Johnson sobbed as the prosecutor recounted McQueary calling her to say he loved her but had to spend time away from her so she could get her life back and get some peace.
Defense attorney Marc Victor told jurors they probably were angry at Johnson but shouldn't be swayed by their emotions.
"This is not a case about whether or not you like Elizabeth Johnson," said Victor, who called no witnesses on behalf of his client at the trial.
Victor said the jury likely would convict Johnson on the custodial interference charge because she violated a judge's custody order. But he said prosecutors failed to prove their case on the other two charges.
Victor described Johnson as an unsophisticated single mother who was under a lot of stress, was in a volatile relationship with the boy's father, and was being manipulated by a woman who wanted to adopt Gabriel.
"Does she wish she had a redo?" Victor said. "Absolutely."
Authorities say Johnson told the boy's father that she killed Gabriel and dumped him in a trash bin in San Antonio, Texas, the city where the child was last seen. But authorities say Johnson later recanted and told police she gave the baby to a couple at a San Antonio park. She never provided the couple's names.
Gabriel's 3rd birthday was in April, but police don't know if he's alive. They searched a landfill and found no body.
Johnson initially was found mentally unfit to stand trial but later was deemed psychologically ready.
Investigators said Johnson brought the child from Tempe to Texas, stayed for a week and then took a bus to Florida without him.
She had been fighting with McQueary about whether to put Gabriel up for adoption. Johnson signed over temporary guardianship to a Scottsdale couple for about 10 days before she picked up the boy and left Arizona. McQueary opposed putting the baby up for adoption.
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.
McQueary isn't suspected in the child's disappearance.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer denied a request by Johnson's attorney to dismiss the kidnapping charge.