A couple that planned to adopt the missing child dubbed "Baby Gabriel" now says they might have been "duped" by the mother of the baby
Whether Johnson researched Tammi and Jack Smith as potential adoptive parents for her son Gabriel is unclear, but knowing their histories, she probably couldn't have picked a better couple in which to spin her tale of woe.
Tammi Smith said her former husband abused her and after several years of fighting, she lost custody of her three daughters. Jack Smith also put up a fight for custody of his granddaughter, Hannah, from her biological father.
The Smiths admitted they saw their own heartbreak in Johnson's tearful blue eyes and believed every word.
"You know what? Maybe we were duped," said Jack Smith on Monday.
He said Johnson claimed her former boyfriend and Gabriel's father, Logan McQueary, abused her and was ruining her life, but CBS 5 News has not been able to uncover a shred of evidence that he was anything other than a hard-working, supportive man.
"He was an upstanding person," said Gabriel Salas, McQueary and Johnson's neighbor. "He was doing everything he could to keep his family together."
Even Johnson's grandfather, Bob Johnson, told CBS 5 News that it wasn't McQueary but Elizabeth Johnson who had volatile tendencies, and was even arrested for trashing the apartment she shared with McQueary.
"Sometimes she just went crazy," McQueary said.
The Smiths said they saw Gabriel as the son they always wanted.
Tammi Smith's Facebook page contains several posts from when Gabriel was in their care. One read, "Look at the new addition to our family."
"Merry Christmas to Hannah," Smith wrote another time. "She now has a brother to play with."
A friend posted "Congratulations on your new baby," and was not corrected.
At about that same time, it appeared Johnson was planning to bolt.
She posted multiple listings on Craigslist trying to raise money. She sold her dogs, took on a roommate and also offered to give away baby clothes.
During the investigation, officers found Gabriel's collapsible crib was hastily tossed in her shed upside down, which possibly indicates she knew she wouldn't need it.
Because of their past, the Smiths said they never questioned Johnson's lies and never involved Gabriel's father in any of the talk about adopting him.
Even when they knew Johnson was on the run, they put her in contact with Janet Morris, an adoption specialist in Nashville, Tenn.
The FBI searched her house as part of the investigation into Gabriel's disappearance.
According to court documents, Morris was once challenged for allegedly stripping a father of his parental rights without properly notifying him -- exactly what the biological father of Tammi and Jack Smith's adopted daughter, Hannah, says the couple did to him.
"I'll put my hand on any bible in any court in the United States and swear to it," Travis Andrews Warford, Hannah's biological father, told CBS 5 News.
The Smiths said Warford is lying.
But in light of Johnson's lies -- saying she killed Gabriel, giving multiple locations for her car and the questionable story of handing Gabriel to strangers in a Texas park -- the Smiths said they now see her for what she appears to be.
"I don't believe anything she says, but you know what? I do want to do everything humanly possible to get that baby back here," said Jack Smith.
Tempe investigators said they still think the Smiths know more than they are saying.