Once upon a time when someone went missing, posters with their faces (example left) were stuck in store windows, and that was about it. Times have changed and missing people, at least those who can pull heartstrings on television for a large enough portion of the viewing population, become stars (usually their final role). The supporting cast, on the other hand, may go on to book contracts and movie options. Even if no other projects are in their future, they get to be stars of a reality show. Some get a kick out of this, but others suffer painfully in the limelight, desperately giving interview after interview in hopes of finding their loved one.
A more brilliant twist couldn’t have been thought of in a fictionalized story of a missing baby (and I would have liked to written it and sold the movie rights). The focus, once strictly upon the mentally disturbed protagonist, suddenly shifts to Jack and Tammi Smith, an Arizona couple who met Elizabeth in the airport and quickly became aggressive prospective adoptive parents of Gabriel Johnson. They took Elizabeth under their wing, working with the disturbed mother to hand over custody to them, in spite of the fact that the father of the baby, Logan McQueary, wasn’t willing to go along with the plan. After the baby went missing, the Smiths showed up continuously on television show after television show -- The Today Show, The Early Show, Nancy Grace, Geraldo, Dr. Phil, etc. -- showing little sadness and appearing extremely nervous. They both twiddled their thumbs as they talked, and many viewers commented that Mrs. Smith often nudged her husband or grabbed his leg. They thought she was trying to stop him from spilling some beans. A common feeling among the television audience is that there was something not quite right about the couple. They thought the Smiths had helped hide Gabriel or adopt him out to another couple in some “underground” baby railroad. The police apparently agreed, because they kept saying there were “indications” the baby was alive.