Local missing child investigation resembles Casey Anthony case


by Sybil Hoffman


Posted on July 7, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 7 at 10:57 PM

TEMPE, Ariz. - Valley mom Elizabeth Johnson may find herself a free woman just like Casey Anthony.

Ed Novak, an attorney with the Polsinelli Shughart Law Firm in Phoenix, says, "Statistically these crimes don't happen that often." That probably explains the public fascination with Casey Anthony and a similar case involving 24-year-old Johnson.  

Novak says,"The emotion and the conclusion and the suppositions may all want to drive people, the public, to thinking that Elizabeth Johnson is guilty and certainly some of her conduct has been a bit suspicious. I think it's pretty clear she's got some mental health issues, but that doesn't mean she's guilty of murder." 

Johnson has been in sitting behind bars for more than a year. Her son Gabriel disappeared in 2009 and hasn’t been seen since.

Johnson first told Gabriel’s father, Logan McQueary, that she killed him. In a recorded conversation with McQueary, he asked Johnson, "You did not hurt Gabriel" and Johnson replied, “Yes I did. I suffocated him."  

Johnson then changed her story saying she gave Gabriel to a couple she met at a park in San Antonio, Texas.

According to Novak, "There will be a strong desire to reach a conclusion that Gabriel is dead and that he died at the hands of his mother." But proving murder will be tough because just like in the case against Casey Anthony, forensic evidence in the Johnson case doesn’t exist.

"I think we need to be prepared for another acquittal possibly in the Johnson case. Again if the jury looks only at the facts and if the prosecution is not able to connect up a death, that is Gabriel's death, and we don't know if he's alive or not, with Elizabeth Johnson, they may not have sufficient facts to find her guilty."

If Johnson ends up going on trial, Novak believes the jury will have to focus on the facts and not their feelings toward Johnson. "Just because someone lied about the disappearance of their child, doesn't mean they killed their child."

Currently Johnson is being held on a $1.1 million cash bond. She is facing a string of charges including kidnapping and child abuse but she has not been charged with murder.