Baby Gabriel's mother pleads not guilty to abuse, kidnapping charges

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on January 25, 2010 at 8:26 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 25 at 9:09 AM

TEMPE -- Elizabeth Johnson, the mother of the Tempe baby who has been missing for a month now, pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of child abuse and kidnapping. No camera were allowed in the courtroom for the video arraignment.

Baby Gabriel has been the center of a nationwide search since he vanished at Christmas. It's believed that Johnson was the last person to see the baby alive, but she has not been cooperating with authorities as they try to find the 9 month old.

Investigators said Johnson fled the state with the baby after the child's father, Logan McQueary, was granted full custody last month. Johnson was arrested on Dec. 29 in Florida. She was extradited back to Arizona earlier this month, and is being held at the Maricopa County Jail.

Investigators said the Johnson has been giving them conflicting stories. Early on, Johnson said she killed Gabriel. She later said she gave him to a couple in San Antonio.

Tempe police investigators said there are indications that the baby is alive, but they have not been able to confirm any leads.

A little more than a week ago, Tempe police released a series of pictures showing Gabriel in a San Antonio hotel room. Some of those pictures are date stamped Dec. 26. That's the last time anybody knows for sure that Gabriel was alive.

A candlelight vigil was held for Gabriel at Scottsdale's Chaparral Park Sunday night. "We want everybody around the world and around the United State to be looking out," McQueary said. "He could be anywhere."

Investigators are continuing to comb through evidence taken from the home of Jack and Tammi Smiths. The Smiths tied to adopt Gabriel in the weeks before he vanished. Police have since labeled them persons of interest and are trying to determine if the couple knows more than they have said.

The Smiths maintain that they've done nothing wrong.

A pretrial hearing for Johnson has been scheduled for March 9.

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