Tammi Smith gets jail time and probation in missing Arizona baby case

PHOENIX - The woman who planned to adopt an Arizona baby that has been missing for more than two years was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 3 years probation.

Tammi Peters Smith, 40, could have faced up to 7 1/2 years in prison after she was convicted in May of forgery and conspiracy to commit custodial interference.

Prosecutors painted Smith as an "obsessed" woman who would stop at nothing to win custody of the boy. Defense attorneys said she was just looking out for the child and his mother.

Frank McQeary, the missing baby's grandfather, spoke at the sentencing saying the family fears for the worst and that they will never see Gabriel again.

He said he wanted Smith to be taken from her family so they could understand what his family has felt.

The prosecution recommended the judge sentence Smith to sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail and 4 years probation, along with restitution and mental health screenings. 

Smith read from a statement, telling the judge that being a Christian is what defines her as a person.

Smith said what has happened over the past 2 1/2 years has made her marriage and faith in God stronger.

She said she never intended to hurt anybody when talking about the Johnson and McQueary families.

Smith said she was "handed Gabriel by a mother in need and kept him for nine days and took good care of him."

She said she would not beg the judge for probation only.

Smith's attorney said if there is a villain in the case, it's Elizabeth Johnson.

He asked she be sentenced to probation without jail time.

Gabriel was 8 months old when he was last seen in December 2009 in San Antonio. The boy's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, had told the boy's father that she killed Gabriel and dumped him in a trash bin, but she later recanted and said she gave the baby to a couple in San Antonio. Her attorney maintains that the latter story is the truth.

Gabriel has never been found and police do not know if he is alive. A search at a landfill didn't turn up anything.

Smith, of Scottsdale, told The Associated Press on Thursday that her lawyers did not want her commenting on the case before her sentencing.

"I wouldn't want to get the judge mad at something I might say or not say," she said.

Smith had been seeking to adopt Gabriel before Johnson left Arizona with him.

Prosecutors accused Smith of lying on a court document about the possible paternity of the baby in an effort to keep Gabriel away from his father, Logan McQueary, who testified against Smith.

Smith offered to adopt Gabriel from Johnson in June 2009 when the two met during a long layover in Boston's airport. Johnson didn't decide to take her up on it until six months later, the same month Gabriel disappeared.

Johnson, who turns 26 later this month, signed over temporary guardianship of Gabriel to Smith and her husband for about 10 days before she picked him up and left Arizona. McQueary called police after he found Johnson's Tempe trailer empty.

Investigators said Johnson drove the boy to San Antonio, stayed about a week and then took a bus to Florida without him. She was arrested Dec. 30, 2009, in Florida and returned to Arizona.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse, kidnapping and custodial interference; her trial is set to begin in September.

Although Judge Joseph Kreamer found that Smith is eligible for probation, the jury in the case found that there were aggravating factors that could draw a harsher penalty for Smith. The aggravating factors were that the crimes caused emotional harm and an accomplice was involved.

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