Baby Gabriel's would-be adoptive father dies in Payson rollover

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by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 16 at 12:24 PM

PAYSON, Ariz. -- Tragedy struck a person connected to the "Baby Gabriel" saga the same week the boy's mother was released from prison.

Jack Smith, who along with his wife tried to adopt Gabriel before he disappeared, died after a car crash in Payson last week. His death came just as friends say he and his wife were rebuilding their lives.

During the frantic nationwide search for Baby Gabriel in 2010, Tammi and Jack Smith, a Scottsdale couple, became persons of interest.

The Smiths had tried adopting Gabriel. When the boy's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, ran away with him, they begged her to come back on national TV.

Police believed the Smiths meddled in the custody dispute over Gabriel in the days before he disappeared with his mother.

Tammi Smith was charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit custodial interference.
 
"They got sucked into this crazy world, crazy world with the media, and they were just shocked by how everything turned," said attorney Benjamin Taylor, who represented Jack Smith.

After Tammi Smith's high-profile trial, the family left the Valley.

"After the trial, they just wanted to get away and start a new life in Payson, Arizona," Taylor said.

In Payson, they'd started a new business and things were turning around.

Jack Smith was a nationally known steel guitar player.

"They had so much going on with their lives," Taylor said. "Jack was a singer and he had a big music career."

But tragedy struck when Jack Smith's SUV rolled on a windy road in Payson last Monday. He reportedly died at home the next day after being released from the hospital, leaving his wife devastated.

"She's torn up,” Taylor said. “She loved Jack dearly."

He said Tammi has been dealing with her husband's death and has not thought at all about Johnson's release from prison.

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