Arizona woman complicit in Baby Gabriel case gets 30 days in jail, probation

Story highlights

  • The then-8-month-old known as "Baby Gabriel" disappeared in 2009
  • Tammi Smith was convicted of forgery, conspiracy for infringing on the boy's father's rights
  • A judge says he doesn't believe Smith is taking full responsibility for her actions
  • The boy is still missing; his mother faces kidnapping and child abuse charges
An Arizona woman was sentenced Friday to probation and 30 days in jail following her conviction for being complicit in the case of the boy known as Baby Gabriel, who was last seen in a Texas motel in 2009.
In May, Tammi Smith was found guilty of forgery and conspiracy to interfere with the custody of Gabriel Johnson when he was then 8 months old.
Prosecutors argued during Smith's trial that she tried to help the infant's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, wrangle custody of the boy from his father, Logan McQueary, in order to adopt the little boy herself.
On December 17, 2009, a judge awarded Johnson and McQueary joint custody of Gabriel, but Johnson allegedly defied the ruling and set out for Texas with her son.
McQueary didn't hear from Johnson until several days later, when she reportedly sent him a text message saying she'd killed Gabriel and put his body in a Dumpster.
Johnson and Smith had met in June 2009, when both women were waiting for the same flight in the Indianapolis airport. Smith suggested to the young mother that she and her husband adopt Gabriel, with Johnson eventually calling her in December to ask if the couple was still interested in adopting.
Ultimately, Johnson told police that she handed over her son to an unknown couple in San Antonio under the direction of Smith.
Smith's conviction does not relate to the boy's disappearance, but to her efforts to conspire with Johnson to deny McQueary his rights to see his son. Jurors also accepted prosecutors' argument that Smith falsely wrote the name of her cousin on a paternity document to falsely assert that he -- and not McQueary -- was Gabriel's father.
The defendant addressed the court Friday, admitting that she helped Johnson and helped care for Gabriel for nine days. She began with a lengthy discussion of her Christian faith and criticism of "certain people hiding behind fake profiles on the internet" and others who have maligned her.
Smith, 40, eventually apologized for any "pain and suffering" that helping Johnson may have caused, even as she firmly insisted that her intentions were good.
"I never intended to hurt anybody," Johnson said, adding that she just wanted to help a single mother who she felt was in need. "I pray every day that Gabriel is alive and that he is found."
But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer questioned whether Smith truly accepted what she'd done, in denying the boy's father access to his child.
"There are times in the world that it's important to simply say I am sorry. You can look to the McQuearys to say what happened to you is awful, I'm sorry. ... I didn't hear that from you," the judge said.
Noting Smith was not convicted for anything to do with Baby Gabriel's disppearance, Kreamer also said that it is not criminal for her to assume that the boy's father was wrong and Johnson was right.
"But it is a crime when you set out to harm somebody's right to their child, and without knowing everything," he said.
The judge read out a statement from McQueary himself, which he said he took into account in deciding a sentence. The boy's father said he wanted Smith to see "the pain" she had caused by her "immaturity and actions," while adding, "I don't believe putting Tammi Smith in jail would serve any purpose and is not the answer."
Kreamer ended up sentencing Smith to 30 days in jail on one count, plus a deferred 30-day jail sentence on the other count that he said she'd likely not serve. She also faces two three-year probation sentences for each conviction.
Johnson herself is still awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping, custodial interference and child abuse.