The mother of missing Baby Gabriel is not competent to stand trial now but can be rehabilitated and possibly stand trial at a later date, a Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner ruled on Thursday.
Commissioner Steven Holding handed down the ruling based on determinations made by two court-appointed doctors who conducted a psychological evaluation of Gabriel Johnson's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, who remains incarcerated in a Maricopa County jail on $1.1 million cash bond in connection to the disappearance of her son.
The ruling excuses Johnson, 23, from participating in further court proceedings regarding the disappearance of Gabriel, who has been missing since December. Originally, Johnson said she killed the baby, according to police and court documents; later, she said she gave Gabriel to a couple in San Antonio.
Attorney Nicholas Alcock, who is representing Johnson in the criminal portion of the case in which Johnson is charged with kidnapping, child abuse, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference, told the Tribune he received the results from Johnson's psychological evaluation on Wednesday and is reviewing the report.
Johnson and the boy's father, Logan McQueary, also are proceeding through a custody hearing in Maricopa County Superior Family Court in which Judge Michael McVey placed a hold on whether Johnson will be found in contempt of court for refusing to say what she did with Gabriel and reveal where he is, pending the outcome of her psychological evaluation.
"Both (court-appointed) doctors believe she is not competent to stand trial," Alcock said. "They have determined that Elizabeth cannot control her thought process and that she is not able to think in a linear fashion, meaning that she is not able to think logically or make decisions."
Johnson left Arizona for San Antonio with her son in mid-December, and on Dec. 27, told McQueary, her estranged boyfriend and father of Gabriel, that she killed the boy, stuffed his body in a diaper bag and then threw it into a dumpster, according to court documents. When Johnson was arrested in Miami Beach, Fla. on Dec. 30, she told an FBI agent that she gave Gabriel to a couple at a motel she was staying at a day after meeting them at a park in San Antonio, according to court records.
The case of Baby Gabriel has received national media attention and has been the subject of numerous national television news programs in the months following Johnson's arrest.
If alive, Gabriel would now be 1 year old.
Alcock, who requested the a psychological evaluation or Rule 11 hearing to be held for Johnson, said he "had some deep concerns" that Johnson could not think clearly and believed she would not be able to think logically or assist an attorney in preparing a defense. Alcock also noted that doctors at the jail had placed Johnson on psychiatric medication after a recent incident in which she assaulted two inmates, resulting in solitary confinement. Johnson has since been returned to the general jail population.
"The court won't allow anyone who is incompetent to stand trial," Alcock said.
Alcock said he expects that Johnson likely will be placed in a "restoration process," in which she would receive therapy and medication.
"It is very rare for someone to be determined incompetent, but not be restorable or rehabilitated through therapy and medication," Alcock said.
A restoration hearing regarding the status of Johnson's mental condition will be held in Maricopa County Superior Court on Aug. 12.
"Everything is very doctor driven," Alcock said after Thursday's ruling. "It will be up to the doctors to determine her mental state and how she's doing. The defense and prosecution both are in agreement that there are competency issues."