SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio police announced Saturday that they are investigating the case of an Arizona baby missing for more than a month as a kidnapping and homicide, allowing them to search for a dead body.
Police Chief William McManus said officers will search a landfill for the body of 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson 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. 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.
Authorities said Johnson and her baby were in San Antonio Dec. 20-27 and spent her 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 told Gabriel's father she killed him and threw his body in a trash bin. But in a phone interview with Phoenix television station KPHO, Johnson said she gave Gabriel to a couple she didn't know at a San Antonio park and that she 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."