San Antonio police began excavating a landfill Tuesday in search of missing 9-month-old Gabriel Johnson, but investigators also are continuing to follow up on leads involving the boy. Timeline | Texas police: Missing Ariz. baby case a homicide
San Antonio police began excavating a landfill Tuesday in search of missing 9-month-old Gabriel Johnson, but investigators also are continuing to follow up on leads involving the boy.
San Antonio police Chief William McManus said Tuesday during a press conference that authorities remain hopeful that Gabriel is alive, but they also are conducting a homicide investigation.
McManus said during the conference that police are excavating a section of the landfill believed to contain trash from a motel where Johnson was last seen with her baby.
Gabriel Johnson was last seen Dec. 26 in San Antonio with his 23-year-old mother, Elizabeth Johnson of Tempe. She was arrested Dec. 30 in Miami Beach, Fla., without the child and later was charged with kidnapping, child abuse and custodial interference.
Police turned to the landfill after the mother allegedly sent a text message to the father, Logan McQueary, on Dec. 27, saying “she killed him,” according to a Maricopa County Superior Court document. And during a telephone call McQueary recorded, Johnson told him she stuffed Gabriel’s body in a diaper bag and threw him in a dumpster, the court document states.
San Antonio police have said that they do not have evidence of whether the boy is dead or alive.
“Let me say this: The San Antonio community is a very tight community, and it takes very, very personally crimes against children, and the community will not tolerate this, and the police department will not tolerate this, and we are doing everything we can to track down Gabriel, and hopefully we’ll find that baby alive,” McManus said during the press conference.
A San Antonio police spokesperson told the Tribune on Tuesday that an initial excavation will include digging about 45 feet deep, and no cadaver dogs are being used at this time.
As workers deal with weather conditions and hazardous-materials issues, the excavation is expected to take about six days before reaching the desired search site, the police spokesperson said.
Between Dec. 21 and 27, Johnson stayed at two motels in San Antonio, the HomeGate Studios and Suites and the Quality Inn and Suites, according to authorities. While there, she was seen with a Hispanic man at both motels and riding in a smaller SUV, according to a Maricopa County Superior Court document.
When Johnson left the Quality Inn and Suites, where she was last seen with the child, she left behind baby items including a portable baby bed and Gabriel’s hospital identification band from his birth.
After her arrest, Johnson told an FBI agent that she met an unknown couple at a park in San Antonio who wanted to adopt the baby on Dec. 25, according to a Maricopa County Superior Court document. Johnson then told the FBI agent she gave Gabriel to the couple in the parking lot of the Quality Inn and Suites the next day and signed an adoption form, according to the court document.
FBI agents in Florida were able to locate Johnson at a youth hostel by tracing her through a computer she was using there and at a nearby library to message Tammi Smith’s MySpace page on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. Police confiscated a new cell phone, a GPS tracking device and a knife from Johnson, according to the court document.
Smith, 37, of Scottsdale, was charged last week with conspiracy to commit to custodial interference and forgery in connection with the case.
Smith and her husband, Jack Smith, had expressed interest in adopting Gabriel, but McQueary said he objected to the adoption. The Smiths had been named persons of interest in the case by Tempe police because officials believed they withheld information that could have led them to the whereabouts of the child.
Johnson is being held in the Maricopa County Estrella Jail on a $1.1 million cash bond. Smith was released on a $15,000 bond.
Both are scheduled to appear in Maricopa County Superior Court for a hearing on Friday.