Video: Where is baby Gabriel?

  1. Closed captioning of: Where is baby Gabriel?

    >>> but we begin with the tragic disappearance of an 8-month-old arizona boy. her mother is under arrest in connection with the case. here's nbc 's miguel almaguer.

    >> reporter: where is gabriel johnson ? the 8-month-old boy was last seen with his mother, 23-year-old elizabeth johnson , in san antonio , texas, where she checked into two motels over the christmas holiday . johnson sent a text message to the boy's father, logan mcqueary, saying that she killed the boy, causing mcqueary to call police.

    >> she put in the text, "i killed him." that's what she said.

    >> reporter: johnson was arrested last week in miami and refused to tell police where her son is.

    >> tell me where he's at. he doesn't need to go through all this.

    >> reporter: police located johnson 's car back in san antonio and say they only found a baby seat and no sign of foul play.

    >> all we know at this point is that gabriel could be anywhere between san antonio and miami beach .

    >> reporter: johnson lost custody to mcqueary when she failed to appear at a court custody hearing in phoenix back on december 28th . in a telephone interview with our nbc affiliate, she says the text message saying she killed gabriel was simply to get back at mcqueary.

    >> that's the only thing i could say that would hurt him. i was emotionally a wreck. i was just completely out of my mind and just upset because he just completely ruined my life and he pushed me to run away, and we're human. we make mistakes and we say things we don't mean and we don't realize that it can, you know, we can be held accountable for them.

    >> reporter: in that same interview, johnson claims she gave the child to strangers she met in a san antonio park. if so, it's not the first time she's done that. seven months ago, she gave gabriel to jack and tammy smith, whom she met at an airport in indianapolis.

    >> she had basically conveyed to us that she was at the end of her rope, whatever that rope was. i don't know -- you know, i don't even need to speculate at that point. we pieced things together. she had been unemployed. she was just getting pressure from boyfriend.

    >> reporter: for now, police are desperate for any information that will reunite little gabriel johnson with his father.

    >> we have a very concerned father that is asking for law enforcement assistance and the public's assistance to get his little boy back.

    >> reporter: for "today," miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles .

    >> logan mcqueary is gabriel 's father, and sergeant steve carbajal is with the tempe fire department .

    >> good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> logan , i'm sorry what you're going through. how are you holding up through all this?

    >> the best i can.

    >> you know, your ex-girlfriend, when she sent you that text message saying that she had killed your little boy , what went through your mind?

    >> i didn't want to believe it, scared. first thing, you know, i did was i called her and didn't want to believe it. i kept asking her if she did it or not, and she said yes, and i didn't know what to do, so i went straight to the police.

    >> logan , do you think that she is capable of doing something like that?

    >> she may be. i don't want to think that she did it. i believe gabriel 's alive and well .

    >> i know the last time that you saw gabriel is december 8th , and after that, she took off. she told you that she wanted to give up the baby for adoption to a couple in arizona that we just saw in that taped piece. you fought her on that. do you think that's why she took off with your son?

    >> you know, i'm not sure. we had both got shared custody, and she didn't want me to see him.

    >> do you believe that she may have given him to someone else , as she claims, a couple in san antonio , texas?

    >> i'm hoping she did and i'm hoping that they're taking care of him, and i'm hoping they come forward, and you know, if they, you know, don't want to get in trouble or anything, just drop him off at a hospital or fire station , any place. just do the right thing.

    >> sergeant, i understand that you do believe gabriel is alive. why?

    >> meredith, we're getting some indications, and it's not compromising the investigation. we can't say specifically what those are, but we are very hopeful and we are getting information that gabriel is alive, and that's what's keeping us going in this investigation, is to return logan 's baby boy to him.

    >> i understand you don't want to compromise the investigation, but can you give us any indication of what that information is? is it a spotty of the baby?

    >> well, we've received some statements, and some, as you guys have just mentioned, even by elizabeth, first indicating that she had harmed the child, now possibly indicating that the child has been given up for adoption. so, we have some information. again, can't release a whole lot at this point, but the one thing we want to make sure is there's been some information about adoptive parents and that sort of media. logan is gabriel 's father legally and as assigned by the court, and our job and what we're working towards right now is to get gabriel back to him.

    >> i understand that at this point, elizabeth johnson is not cooperating with investigators. would it help her case to start doing so? what kind of charges does she face?

    >> well, right now she has been placed under arrest on custodial interference warrant. but right now, what we're looking at, as logan said, we're looking at all parties the same. right now we're not worried about charges. we're not worried so much about prosecution as much as we're worried about getting gabriel back to his father.

    >> logan when you close your eyes and think of your son, what do you see?

    >> i just want to see him back here with me.

    >> well, we hope you get him back very, very soon. logan mcqueary, thank you so much. sergeant steve carbajal, thanks for all your work and good luck to you.

    >> thank you, meredith.

    >> thank you.

    >>> and now let's get a

updated 1/8/2010 5:15:57 AM ET 2010-01-08T10:15:57

A couple from Scottsdale, Ariz., who wanted to adopt a woman's baby may know more about the missing child's whereabouts than they're telling investigators, police said Thursday.

Jack and Terri Smith are now "persons of interest" in the investigation into the disappearance of 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson, according to Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Steve Carbajal.

The baby was last seen in San Antonio in late December with his 23-year-old mother, Elizabeth Johnson.

Johnson was arrested last week in Florida on suspicion of custodial interference after she didn't show up for a custody hearing in Arizona. Her car was later found by the FBI in San Antonio.

She has since told a Phoenix television station that she gave the boy away in San Antonio. She made the statement after she sent a text message to her ex-boyfriend telling him she had killed the baby.

Police believe the baby has not been harmed.

"We are getting some indications that Gabriel is alive," Carbajal said Thursday. "We can't say specifically just what those are, but we are getting some indications that those are correct."

The Smiths have given numerous media interviews in recent days where they said they met Johnson at an airport during a long layover and befriended her. Terri Smith said the young mother wanted to give up her baby for adoption but the ex-boyfriend wouldn't go along.

Terri Smith told KTVK-TV in Phoenix on Thursday that the couple has cooperated fully with police and have nothing to hide.

The baby's father, Logan McQueary, has said Johnson tried several times to get him to sign away his parental rights but that he refused.

Tempe police have been inundated with tips and are now directing callers to the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children.

Carbajal urged anyone who has the baby to bring him to a safe place like a fire station or a hospital if they are afraid to come forward.

"Our focus has always been the same, and that is locating Gabriel," he said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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