Elizabeth Johnson, an Arizona woman convicted in the Christmastime 2009 disappearance of her son, Gabriel Johnson, has been freed from prison.
Johnson, who has served roughly 5 years behind bars, was released from Perryville state prison just after midnight Friday, authorities said. She now faces four years' probation.
According to KNXV-TV, Johnson's attorney said she is looking forward to rejoining society and has plans to help single mothers in need. The attorney did not elaborate on those plans, the news station reported.
Gabriel was last seen on Dec. 26, 2009, according to police. Johnson, who was then 27 years old, and the baby's 25-year-old father, Logan McQueary, shared joint custody of the 8-month-old child.
On Dec. 27, 2009, the day McQueary was supposed to pick up his son for a scheduled visitation, he received an ominous text message, apparently from Johnson, telling him their baby was dead.
"You will never see Gabriel again," the text read. "I made sure of that. And you can spend the rest of your pathetic life wondering about him. You will never find me. I'm already boarding a plane out of the country. When I'm safe, I'll email you the exact location of dead Gabriel's little blue body, if the garbage don't come first. This is what liars like you deserve."
Later that same day, police said, Johnson called McQueary to say that she had suffocated Gabriel and dumped his body in a trash can.
"I suffocated him. I suffocated him, and he turned blue, and I put him in his diaper bag and put him in the trash can," a woman identified by investigators as Johnson said in the audiotape they released.
According to police, Johnson told McQueary that she had killed their child out of revenge because she believed McQueary was involved with other women. "You want to talk to girls -- that's the price you pay," Johnson told her former boyfriend, according to police.
Johnson also claimed he had destroyed her life, according to the audiotape. McQueary responded, "I haven't destroyed anything." Johnson replied, "Yes, you have, Logan. You made me kill my baby boy ... So find some new girl to make your new baby."
The text message and phone recording prompted a massive search of local landfills by police, but they were unable to find the child.
Johnson was arrested by police in Miami on Dec. 30, 2009, and charged with kidnapping and custodial interference.
In the days following her arrest, Johnson changed her story, telling police she had given Gabriel away to strangers in San Antonio, where her car was later found. But she never provided the couple's names. Witnesses have placed Johnson and the baby in the San Antonio area between Dec. 20 and 27, although she was alone when she turned up in Florida on Dec. 27, 2009.
In October 2012, a jury convicted Johnson of custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the kidnapping charge and instead found Johnson guilty of a lesser count of unlawful imprisonment.
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Missing Baby Gabriel
Two months later, in December 2012, Johnson appeared before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer for her sentencing hearing.
During the hearing, Johnson maintained her story that she gave Gabriel away to a couple in Texas so he could be with a "real, loving family."
"I have to live every day without my son and without knowing where he is," Johnson said at her sentencing hearing. "That is the worst pain and punishment I could ever have ... I am deeply sorry."
McQueary also spoke in court, via a phone call to the judge.
"I don't know what to say that has not already been said ... What Elizabeth has done has not only robbed me but my friends and family ... her actions hurt and changed people and their lives forever [and] I think Elizabeth should be held accountable for her actions," Logan said.
Prosecutor Angela Andrews announced in court that her office was willing to set aside its recommendation of imprisonment if Johnson would reveal where her child is.
The defense did not respond to Andrews' offer.
Andrews described Johnson's actions as "despicable" and said she had caused "amazing pain and suffering" to the victims. "She was a vindictive and scheming woman who used her child as a pawn ... Her actions demonstrated nothing but pure selfishness and vengeance," Andrews said.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Kreamer sentenced Johnson to three and a half years for the custodial interference charge, and one year and nine months for the unlawful imprisonment charge, bringing the total sentence to five years and three months.
Kreamer credited Johnson with 1,062 days that she had already served, leaving her roughly two years to complete behind bars.
"I wish there was something I could do to bring closure, but there's not," Kreamer said at the sentencing hearing.
After Johnson's conviction, her grandfather, Bob Johnson, told ABC15 that Gabriel's whereabouts will likely remain a mystery. Authorities still do not know if the child is alive or dead. "I think that there's a real good possibility that we will never, I repeat, never know what happened," he said.