Photo: Gabriel Johnson.
More than one month after the boy went missing, San Antonio police are accepting that the grim reality might be murder. They announced Saturday that they are shifting their investigation from a missing person case to kidnapping and homicide.
Photo: Elizabeth Johnson with her son, Gabriel.
Police Chief William McManus said officers will search a landfill for the toddler's body once weather permits, adding that he still hopes authorities will find the boy alive.
Gabriel was last seen Dec. 26 in San Antonio with his mother, 23-year-old Elizabeth Johnson. She was arrested Dec. 30 in Florida and has been charged in Arizona with kidnapping, child abuse and custodial interference.
Gabriel's father, Logan McQueary of Tempe, Ariz., told The Associated Press that he was disappointed that police were treating the case as a homicide.
Photo: Logan McQueary with his son, Gabriel Johnson.
The case drew national attention when McQueary pleaded for his son's safe return on national TV.
"We think Gabriel is out there and alive," he said Saturday.
McManus said McQueary arrived in San Antonio on Friday night and has met with local authorities. McQueary and Johnson were in the middle of a custody dispute when Johnson left Tempe with the baby Dec. 18.
Photo: Gabriel Johnson.
Authorities said Johnson and her baby were in San Antonio Dec. 20-27 and spent time in two hotels. Authorities say that on Dec. 27, Johnson was seen boarding a bus to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but Gabriel wasn't with her.
Johnson has refused to say where the baby is, but reportedly told Gabriel's father she killed him and threw his body in a trash bin. But in a phone interview with CBS affiliate KPHO, Johnson said she gave Gabriel to a couple she didn't know at a San Antonio park, and claimed that she only said she killed the child to get back at McQueary.
Peg Mulloy, a spokeswoman for Arizona-based Republic Services Inc., which owns the 1,000-acre landfill that police plan to search, told the San Antonio Express-News that part of it has been blocked off since authorities contacted the waste management company.
McManus said police had been planning "for a long time" to search the site but rainy weather had caused delays.
"Logistics make it hard," he said. "We've been working with contractors, and worrying about toxic runoff associated with landfills. And, the weather hasn't been cooperating. We're expecting more rain in the next couple days."
Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at (210) 225-6741 or Tempe Police Department at (480) 350-8311.
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