Elizabeth Johnson, the mother of an infant commonly referred to as “Baby Gabriel,” who vanished in 2009 and hasn’t been seen since, was released from an Arizona prison early Friday.
Johnson was freed from Perryville prison in Goodyear at 12:04 a.m. Friday after spending five years behind bars.
Johnson’s attorney, Marc Victor, said that she was in good spirits when released Friday morning.
Victor said Johnson was looking forward to rejoining society and had plans to help single mothers in need. The attorney did not provide specifics related to those plans.
“I think she has matured a lot from this entire experience,” Victor said. “She has what I would call some grand plans to move on with her life.”
In 2012, Johnson avoided what could have been a lengthy prison term of more than 20 years after a jury failed to reach a verdict on the most serious charge against her, kidnapping, instead convicting her of a lesser count of unlawful imprisonment.
The 27-year-old has been placed under supervision of the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department.
Her then-8-month-old son was last seen on Dec. 26, 2009, at a hotel in San Antonio, Texas.
Authorities said Johnson told Gabriel’s father that she killed the boy and dumped him in a trash bin there. But authorities said she later recanted and told police she gave the baby to a couple at a San Antonio park. She never provided the couple’s names.
In 2010, San Antonio police scoured a landfill that contained trash from the hotel where Gabriel was last seen. The search turned up no body or other evidence.
Johnson initially was found mentally unfit to stand trial but later was cleared to proceed.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Angela Andrews said Johnson used Gabriel as a pawn in her disputes with the boy’s father, Logan McQueary. The prosecutor alleged Johnson fled her Tempe home to Texas with the child as a way to retaliate against McQueary for ending their tumultuous relationship.
Victor said Johnson has no idea where Gabriel is and assumes he is with a good family. He said even if she could find him, she wouldn’t be sure it would be in his best interests.
Victor said Johnson is aware of the scrutiny she will likely face; in particular, how could she send the text messages to Gabriel’s father saying he was dead.
“Everything else speaks to that she was a very dedicated, loving mother to Gabriel,” Victor said. “She said what she said in a moment of stupidity, and she regrets it.”