PHOENIX -- A judge on Friday sentenced an Arizona woman who was convicted in her young son's disappearance nearly three years ago to 5.25 years in prison.
Elizabeth Johnson, 26, faced two to nine years in prison for her custodial interference and unlawful imprisonment convictions in the Christmastime 2009 disappearance of her then-8-month-old son, Gabriel.
She is being given credit for time served, meaning that Johnson will spend about 2.3 years in prison followed by four of probation so she can receive help.
Authorities said Johnson told the boy's father that she killed Gabriel and dumped him in a trash bin, but recanted and told police she gave the infant to a couple at a San Antonio, Texas, park. She never provided the couple's names.
Gabriel would have turned 3 this past April. Authorities don't know if he's still alive.
Prosecutors claimed Johnson ran off to Texas with the child as a way to retaliate against his father for ending their tumultuous relationship. The father isn't suspected in the child's disappearance.
In mid-October, a jury convicted Johnson of custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial inference, but failed to reach a verdict a kidnapping charge -- the most serious count against her -- and instead found her guilty of a lesser count of unlawful imprisonment, meaning a maximum possible prison sentence of 27 years was off the table.
Elizabeth Johnson's attorney, Marc Victor has said his client is aware of the horrible mistakes that she has made, regrets the grief she caused the boy's father and described Johnson as an unsophisticated single mother who was in a volatile relationship with the boy's father and was being manipulated by a woman who wanted to adopt Gabriel.
The boy was last seen with his mother on Dec. 26, 2009, at a hotel in San Antonio.
Investigators said Johnson brought the child from Tempe to Texas, stayed for a week and then took a bus to Florida without him. She was arrested in Florida on Dec. 30, 2009.
Johnson had been fighting with the boy's father about whether to give up Gabriel for adoption. She signed over temporary guardianship of the boy to a Scottsdale couple for about 10 days before she picked him up and left Arizona.
The would-be adoptive mother from Scottsdale, Tammi Peters Smith, was accused of lying on a court document about the child's possible paternity in an effort to keep Gabriel from his father. Smith was convicted of forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- Dignity Health World Class People. World Class Company. Excellent care, delivered with compassion, for all in need.
Voice For A Better Arizona
- Family in Focus KTAR spends the week taking a look at the issues a modern Arizona family faces.