exposing the dark side of adoption
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Dad wins sole custody of missing 'Baby Gabriel'


Mike Sakal

A Maricopa County Family Court judge on Friday awarded Logan McQueary sole custody of his 10-month old son Gabriel, and next will move forward with hearings to decide whether the baby’s mother is in contempt of court for refusing to reveal the baby’s whereabouts.

Even as Judge Michael McVey stripped Elizabeth Johnson of any parenting ties to Gabriel who has been missing for three months — a baby her family said she didn’t want in the first place — Johnson invoked her 5th Amendment right to remain silent and did not answer any questions.

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In a case that has received national attention, McQueary, 25, of Gilbert, has been searching for his son who was last seen in San Antonio on Dec. 26, about a week after Johnson drove there with the child in the midst of a custody battle. Johnson, 23, of Tempe, is being held on a $1.1 million cash bond in the Maricopa County Estrella Jail on charges of kidnapping, child abuse, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference.

Johnson appeared in court wearing a striped jail inmate suit, looking haggard and nervous. She was called to the stand twice to testify, first by McQueary’s attorney and then by McVey. Johnson broke down and cried while being questioned by McVey, and would not say when she last saw Gabriel, the last people she saw the baby with, or tell the court who she gave the baby to. She would not provide the location of the baby or his state of safety and well-being.

Johnson told McQueary in a text message and telephone call on Dec. 27 that she killed Gabriel, stuffed his body in a diaper bag and threw his body in a dumpster. But, after her Johnson’s arrest three days later in Miami, Fla., she told an FBI agent that she met a couple at a San Antonio park and gave Gabriel to them in the parking lot of the motel where she was staying before signing adoption papers, according to a Maricopa County Superior Court document.

McQueary’s family could be heard expressing sighs of relief after McVey handed down his ruling despite the defense questioning McQueary about his criminal history from a 2004 solicitation to commit burglary conviction and his admitted drug use in the past.

McQueary did not comment after the hearing, but had earlier told the Tribune he has been clean for about three years.

His attorney, Craig Mehrens, had asked McVey to find Johnson in contempt for violating his December ruling that awarded temporary custody rights to McQueary.

McVey set a hearing for April 28 to review the contempt allegation against Johnson.

Mehrens said McVey could order Johnson to produce the baby, or force her to remain in jail in contempt of court until she does.

“I’m expressing sadness not only for my client, but his son,” Mehrens said. “I had to do my job and ask her what she did with the baby and where it’s at. The judge should find her in contempt because she’s already violated I don’t know how many court orders.”

Johnson’s attorney, Mitchell Cohen, said he expected the judge to award custody to McQueary but doesn’t expect McVey to find Johnson in contempt of court, citing her constitutional right to invoke the 5th Amendment.

Private investigator Ken Gamble, who is working with the McQuearys in the search for Gabriel, said there is no evidence indicating that Johnson sold Gabriel in an underground adoption, but said there are indications she gave him to someone she entrusted who has the boy in hiding.

McQueary’s father, Frank McQueary said after the hearing, “It’s a shame the judge is putting Elizabeth Johnson’s rights before the safety of the child. The safety of the child is paramount, and the attorneys are doing their job of protecting Elizabeth’s rights, but they are putting the health, safety and welfare of the child at risk.”

2010 Mar 26