Elizabeth Johnson case could go to jury sooner than expected

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The high-profile courtroom drama had been expected to run well into November, but prosecutors in Elizabeth Johnson's kidnapping and custodial interference trial are moving much faster than initial estimates and the case could be in the hands of jurors as early as the middle of next week.

That word Wednesday from Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer as jurors heard a third day of testimony against the 26-year-old mother of missing baby Gabriel Johnson.

Wednesday morning's testimony started with a Tempe couple, Natalie Robertson and her boyfriend Gabriel Salas, being called to the witness stand.

Robertson and then Salas told jurors that for several months in late 2009 a young couple moved in next door to them in a Tempe trailer park.

That young couple, the two prosecution witnesses told jurors, was Elizabeth Johnson, her boyfriend Logan McQuery, and their infant son Gabriel.

"She was always pretty standoffish," Robertson said of Elizabeth Johnson.

But Robertson and Salas were more positive in their description of Logan McQuery.

"What types of things did you see Logan doing with Gabriel," prosecutor Angela Andrews asked Robertson.

"Taking their walks. He'd be working on the house and sometimes he'd have the baby in a stroller," Robertson said.

"I saw him cuddling him and kissing him, the things parents are suppose to do," she added.

It was during this period of time that the rocky relationship of Johnson and McQuery began to fall apart. To hurt McQuery, prosecutors said Johnson fled to Texas with their then 8-month-old son.

The child has not been seen since.

Initially, Johnson told McQuery that she had suffocated their baby and threw his body in a dumpster.

Johnson later told law officers that she gave the baby to an unidentified couple in a San Antonio park.

One reason for the faster-than-expected trial is that Johnson's defense attorney, Marc Victor, has asked only a handful of questions during his cross-examination of the prosecution's witness.

In fact, most of the prosecution's witnesses have not been cross-examined, as many of the facts in the case are not in dispute.

It is still unknown whether defense attorney Victor will call any witnesses to the stand on Johnson's behalf.