Testimony reveals tumultuous life of Baby Gabriel's parents

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by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 18 at 10:41 AM

PHOENIX -- The woman who wanted to adopt missing baby Gabriel Johnson in the weeks before his disappearance is on trial. Prosecutors say 40-year-old Tammi Smith of Phoenix forged adoption papers, and committed custodial interference in December of 2009.

Gabriel Johnson was 9-months-old when his parents split.  Logan McQueary, Gabriel's father, was the first witness called against Smith at trial.

McQueary described his relationship with Gabriel's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, as on-again off-again, and at times violent.  He said Johnson destroyed two of their apartments, breaking the windows, and sometimes targeting him in her rages

"She busted plates on my head, picked up an ashtray and threw it at me. Anything on the counter she threw at me," McQueary told the jury.

After the two split late in 2009, Johnson says he petitioned for full custody of Gabriel. He says Johnson did not want Gabriel, but she also did not want McQueary to have sole custody.

"She told me that we needed to talk, that she wanted to give Gabriel up for adoption," said McQueary.

Johnson and Tammi Smith crossed paths, and drew up paperwork for Johnson to give Gabriel to Smith and her husband.

"She just kept saying, 'He'd have a better life. They're rich.' They offered to give me $1,000 to get and apartment and get me back on my feet," McQueary said.

Gabriel's father refused to sign him over to the Smiths, and soon after Elizabeth Johnson disappeared with Gabriel. She was later found in Florida without the boy, and first said she'd killed him and threw his body in the trash.  Since then, Johnson has changed her story, insisting she gave Gabriel to a couple she met in a San Antonio park.

McQueary told the court he has always partly blamed Tammi Smith for his son's disappearance.

"I told her, 'I think you had a part in doing this and helping Elizabeth,'" McQueary testified.

Some investigators agree, and believe Tammi Smith played more of a role in Gabriel's disappearance than she has admitted.

Smith's attorney told the jury her client is an upstanding citizen, and a caring mother who was simply trying to help the struggling mother and her baby.

As cross examination continues Wednesday, Smith's attorney is expected to attempt to discredit Logan McQueary's testimony by bringing up his history of arrests for drugs and thefts.

Tammi Smith's trial is set to last about five weeks, and she is on the list to testify.

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