The father of missing 9-month-old Gabriel Johnson is hoping to increase the reward for information that can lead to the safe return of his son.
Beginning at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Manny’s Mexican and American Restaurant, 12345 W. Indian School Road in Avondale, will host a fundraiser for the family of Logan McQueary, Gabriel’s father, who is continuing to search for clues that can possibly lead him to Gabriel.
The fundraiser will last through Sunday.
The boy was last seen at a HomeGate Studios and Suites motel in San Antonio on Dec. 26, eight days after the boy’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson, 23, of Tempe, drove her grandfather’s white 1995 Delta 88 Oldsmobile to San Antonio in the midst of a custody battle. On Dec. 27, Johnson told McQueary via text message that she killed Gabriel. Through a telephone call the same day, she told McQueary she killed Gabriel, stuffed his body in a diaper bag and threw him in a dumpster, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents.
However, at the time of Johnson’s arrest on Dec. 30 in Miami Beach, Fla., she told an FBI agent that she was approached by an unknown couple in a park in San Antonio who were interested in adopting a baby, and she gave the boy to the couple the next day in the parking lot of the motel before singing an adoption form, according to a court document.
Up to a $5,000 reward is being offered for information that can lead to Gabriel’s safe return by Crime Stoppers in San Antonio.
The restaurant will donate a portion of its revenue through Sunday to the McQueary family, and there will be a football autographed by former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner raffled off as well as other door prizes and raffles.
Raffle tickets for the Warner football are $5 each.
The proceeds from the restaurant, the raffles and tips from a disc jockey playing music over the weekend will go to the McQueary family and toward raising the reward.
McQueary, who now lives in Gilbert with his father, will fly to San Antonio on Saturday where authorities are scheduled to begin the second phase of a landfill search on Thursday for the baby’s remains or evidence. An initial excavation of a portion of the landfill going down 45 feet deep was completed this week.
“I’m just sitting back and seeing what happens,” McQueary said. “I’m pretty nervous and curious at the same time. I want this to be over with. I don’t believe Gabriel is there.”
Tammi Smith, 37, of Scottsdale, who was charged with forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference in connection to the case, entered an innocent plea to those charges at her arraignment in Maricopa County Superior Court on Thursday. She remains free on $15,000 bond.
Smith, and her husband, Jack, who were interested in adopting Gabriel, were named as persons of interest in the case because Tempe police believed the couple withheld information that could have led them to the whereabouts of the boy. Jack Smith no longer is a person of interest.
Johnson, who was charged with kidnapping, child abuse, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference, pleaded not guilty to the charges in Maricopa County Superior Court on Jan. 25. She is being held on a $1.1 million cash bond in the Maricopa County Estrella Jail and refuses to reveal her son’s whereabouts.
Smith and Johnson are next scheduled to appear for a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court on March 9.
For more information about the fundraiser, call Manny’s Mexican and American Restaurant at (623) 935-3409.
If anyone has information regarding Gabriel’s whereabouts, they can call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.