Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Nation & World

Elizabeth Smart kidnapper to be released from prison

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman convicted of helping a former street preacher kidnap Elizabeth Smart as a teenager in 2002 from her Salt Lake City bedroom and hold her captive will be freed from prison in a surprise move announced Tuesday by state authorities.

Wanda Barzee, 72, will be released Sept. 19 after the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole determined it had miscalculated the time she previously served in federal custody, board spokesman Greg Johnson said in a news release.

She will be under federal supervision for five years.

Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping Smart and helping keep her captive for nine months before Smart was found and rescued.

Smart, now 30, didn’t immediately have comment on the pending release.

The board said previously that Barzee would be released in January 2024 after it denied her an early parole following a hearing that she chose not to attend.

At the June hearing, her attorney questioned the calculation of her release date, which led the Utah board to look into it. Lawyer Scott Williams said Tuesday he’s appreciative the board reviewed it and agreed with his assessment.

Williams said he’s not concerned about Barzee being a danger to the community, but declined to say why he believes that.

Smart said in an Instagram post after the hearing that she’s not a vindictive person but was worried about Barzee’s release after learning she was still carrying a manuscript containing revelations that accomplice Brian David Mitchell said he received from God telling him to kidnap Smart.

She said the manuscript also contains other "disturbing and dangerous ideas." She didn’t say how she knows Barzee has the book.

Smart’s abduction from her bedroom at knifepoint by a man who came in through an open kitchen window triggered waves of fear among parents around the country.

Smart was found nine months later while walking with Barzee and Mitchell on a street in the suburb of Sandy, Utah, by people who recognized the couple from media reports.

Mitchell is serving a life sentence after being convicted of kidnapping and raping Smart. He and Barzee were married at one point.

Barzee was sent to the Utah state prison in April 2016 after finishing a federal sentence in Texas.

Smart, now married with two children, has written a book about the harrowing ordeal and helped make a Lifetime movie and documentary about the crime and her life. She is now a child safety activist who regularly gives speeches.

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