Elizabeth Smart's Kidnapper Who Watched Husband Rape Her Officially Released from Prison


In 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by a man named Brian David Mitchell from her Salt Lake City home. For nine months, Smart was held captive by Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.

During that time, Barzee encouraged Mitchell to repeatedly abuse and rape Smart, many times sitting beside her as it happened.


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The last few days I’ve been reminded of something that took me awhile to learn after I was rescued. It is so easy to focus on all the negative things that happen and to feel that everything is unfair and should not have happened to you. Well I think you’re right. Too many things happen that you don’t deserve, and are unfair. But even though bad things happen they often lead to knowledge, compassion, understanding, empathy, love, healing, and change. In my book all those things are good. Out of great darkness light often shines through. I see that in my own life. Perhaps the only way for me to be where I am today was by going through everything that I did. I never asked to be kidnapped, and nor would I ever want it to happen again to me or anyone else. But had I not been kidnapped and raped, I wouldn’t understand what it is to be a victim/survivor, I would naively think that the victims would have some responsibility over what happened to them, I would have built barriers between what happened to them and what could never happen to me. There would be so much I wouldn’t know or understand. Looking back I can honestly say it was the worst experience I have ever dealt with and I hope no one ever goes through it again but I am also grateful it happened to me for what it has taught me and allowed me to be a part of, and for making me into the person I am today. #survivor #miracleshapoen #hope #lightthroughdarkness #victimnomore #change #knowledge #understanding #empathy

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According to NBC News, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison, and Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. In 2016, she was also sentenced to another 1-16 years in prison for the attempted abduction of one of Smart’s cousins a month after the first kidnapping.

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However, just days ago, news came that Barzee was to be released nearly five years earlier than her original release date in 2024.

Smart held an impromtu news conference and begged authorities to reconsider the early release given the horrendous acts she and her husband had committed.

“I do believe she is a threat,” Smart said.

“She is a woman who had six children and yet co-conspired to kidnap a 14-year-old girl and not only sit next to her while being raped, but encourage her husband to continue to rape me.”

Smart was concerned about the danger that Barzee still poses to society after her own experiences.


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I’m asked all sorts of questions everyday, these days a lot of them are about when I’m going to speak to my children about being kidnapped. I don’t plan on hiding it from my children, it has changed the course of my life. And as much as I want to protect them from anything bad ever happening to them I also realize that one day they’ll leave for school, work,…, and if I’m not teaching them and educating them to know how special and loved they are, what’s acceptable and what’s not, know their boundaries, and not be afraid to speak up when some one is being inappropriate or makes them feel uncomfortable, then I’m not doing my job as their mother.

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“I would urge the powers that be, and anyone who works under them, to really, strongly reconsider this situation, to look at all the facts, look at her mental status, and see if they really and honestly truly feel like she is no longer a threat and that she is ready to be released,” she said.

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But according to ABC News, 72-year-old Barzee was officially released from the Draper Prison in Utah around 8 a.m. this morning.

According to several reports, Barzee will likely live alone in a private residence. She will be supervised for five years and will not be required to wear an ankle monitor.

She also cannot leave the Salt Lake City area, and she must register as a sex offender.

The deputy chief US probation officer for Utah, Eric Anderson, stated, “A transition plan is in place for her in terms of residence… She won’t be homeless.”

Meanwhile, Smart is still coping with her feelings towards this release, but she continues to use her experience to help others.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Smart and her family.

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Erin Shortall is an editorial intern for The Western Journal. She is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree at Grove City College. She has a passion for homeless ministry in her home city of Philadelphia, PA.
Erin Shortall is an editorial intern for The Western Journal. She is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree at Grove City College. She has a major in English, minors in both Writing and Communication Studies, and a Technical Writing concentration. She is currently working on designing and writing a book of poetry to financially support a new homeless ministry of Grove City, PA called Beloved Mercy Ministry. In her spare time, she loves to sing, play piano, exercise, traverse cities, and find the cutest coffee shops. She also has a passion for homeless ministry in her home city of Philadelphia, PA.
Philadelphia, PA
Scholarship of Academic Achievement and Moral Character
Grove City College
Grove City, PA
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
Visual Design, Document Design, Technical Communication, Literature, Computer Ethics