ELIZABETH ANN SMART
Elizabeth Ann Smart
In November of 2001, Lois Smart first met ‘Emmanuel’, a homeless man panhandling for change on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. Lois had 3 of children with her this day, including Mary Katherine and Elizabeth. The man she met as ‘Emmanuel’ was clean and relatively well groomed when Lois first met him and seemed sincere. ‘Emmanuel’ had told Lois his calling in life was to be a minister for the homeless. Ed and Lois Smart often hired homeless people to do odd jobs at their home in the Federal Heights section of Salt Lake City. Moved by ‘Emmanuel’, Lois offered him a half’s day work at their home raking leaves and doing roof repairs if he was interested. He gratefully accepted her offer and took the bus to her home where he worked for 5 hours, helping Ed repair the Smart’s roof. When their work was done, Ed paid ‘Emmanuel’ and that was the last the Smart’s saw of him.
However, ‘Emmanuel’ was nothing like what he portrayed himself to the Smart’s to be. If they had known who ‘Emmanuel’ actually was, they would have never asked him to their home and introduced him to their 6 children. ‘Emmanuel’s’ real name was Brian David Mitchell, 48 years old, and he had only recently cleaned himself up to be more presentable for panhandling. Normally, Brian’s hair and beard were shaggy and he often wore white robes that gave him the appearance of a Biblical prophet.
Brian David Mitchell, born October 18th, 1953, had a troubled background. His father, Shirl Mitchell, a social worker, had some odd beliefs about parenting. His idea of teaching his 8 year old son about sex was to show him graphic pictures from a medical journal and leaving other sexual material around the house where Brian could find it. When Brian was 12, his father drove him to an unfamiliar part of Salt Lake City and told him to find his way home by himself. By the age of 16, Brian David Mitchell had begun to act out and was caught exposing himself to a child. He was sent away to live with his grandmother, but it wasn’t long after that he became heavily involved with drugs and alcohol and dropped out of school. He was married at the age of 19 and had 2 children, but the marriage did not last long, and Brian fled to New Hampshire to keep his ex-wife from gaining custody of the children.
By 1980, Brian David Mitchell had returned to Utah and had dedicated himself to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He again married, this time to a woman named Debbie, and they had 2 children together. However, over time Brian’s religious beliefs became fanatical, and his fascination with Satan scared Debbie. Brian’s exuberant portrayals of the devil in church services displeased the elders of his ward and they asked him to restrain himself. In 1984, Brian filed for divorce, accusing Debbie of being cruel to his children. A year later she accused him of abusing 2 of her children from a previous marriage, a 3 year old boy and a 4 year old girl.
On the same day that Brian’s divorce from Debbie was granted, he married his 3rd wife, Wanda Barzee, a divorcee 6 years older than him who had 6 children of her own. Brian’s increasingly extreme religious practices alienated Barzee’s children, and they eventually moved out of the house. He began declaring that he spoke to angels and said that he was a prophet of God, guided by visions. Wanda treated him like a holy man and began calling herself ‘God Adometh’. Together, the couple wandered the streets of Salt Lake City wearing white robes panhandling for money. When they ran into people they knew, Brian and Wanda pretended they did not know them, holding out their hands and asking for handouts. In November of 2001,around the same time that Lois Smart met ‘Emmanuel’, the LDS Church excommunicated Mitchell and Barzee for ‘promoting bizarre teachings and lifestyle’ that were not in accordance with church doctrine. Excommunication did not deter Mitchell. He wrote his own gospel, ‘The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah’ and declared that he was sent by God to return the Mormon Church to its fundamental values, including the practice of polygamy. In one of his writings, Mitchell urged his wife to accept ‘seven times seven sisters’ into their family.
Lois Smart may have thought twice on that November day when she invited ‘Emmanuel’ to her home if she knew that his desire was to have 49 more wives.
Six months later, at about 2:00 AM on June 5, 2002, 9 year old Mary Katherine Smart awoke from a sound sleep and discovered that her sister, 14 year old Elizabeth Smart, born November 3rd, 1987, was not on her side of the queen sized bed which they shared. She saw that Elizabeth was out of bed, and the someone else was in the room – a man. Mary Katherine sensed that it wasn’t her father or one of her brothers. Elizabeth Smart was moving around the mostly dark room and stubbed her toe on something, Mary Katherine heard her say ‘Ouch!’. The man told Elizabeth in a whisper to be quiet and threatened to kill her family if she didn’t obey. His voice was soft and seemed vaguely familiar to Mary Katherine. Terrified, Mary Katherine pretended to be asleep, but through her half closed eyes, she saw the man’s hands and the dark hair that covered the backs of them. He was wearing a light colored cap and a light colored jacket and didn’t seem to be much taller than Elizabeth. Mary Katherine thought he was holding a gun.
“Why are you taking me?” Elizabeth Smart asked.
Mary Katherine wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard the man say “For ransom or hostage”. He told Elizabeth to get some shoes, and she briefly turned on a light to find a pair of white sneakers. Elizabeth then left the room with the man.
Mary Katherine waited until she thought it was safe,then she climbed out of bed and tiptoed to the doorway. She peaked out into the hall and saw her sister and the man coming out of one of her brothers bedrooms. Petrified that the man would come back and take her, she ran back to bed and shut her eyes. She stayed that way for almost 2 hours, too scared to move.
Shortly before 4:00 AM, Mary Katherine threw a blanket around herself and summoned the courage to goto her parents’ bedroom. She woke her father and told him that Elizabeth was gone.
Ed’s first thought was that Mary Katherine had had a nightmare, after all it had been a difficult week. The children’s grandfather, Lois’s father, had died the week before, and the funeral had been the previous day. Elizabeth and Mary Katherine had played their harps at the viewing at the funeral parlor. Ed Smart also knew that his daughter, Elizabeth, sometimes retreated to the living room sofa whenever Mary Katherine kicked in her sleep. He got out of bed and looked for Elizabeth to put his youngest daughter’s mind at ease. But as they went from room to room, Mary Katherine begged her father to listen to her. “You’re not going to find her! A man came and took her! A man with a gun!”
Unable to find Elizabeth anywhere in the house, Ed Smart called 911. “My daughter’s missing!” he told the dispatcher. “Oh my gosh! Please hurry!”
The police arrived at 4:13 AM, and the search for Elizabeth Smart began.
However, before the police arrived at 4:13 AM, several friends, neighbors and relatives whom Ed Smart had called in a frantic attempt to locate Elizabeth, had rushed over to do whatever they could. According to some, over a dozen cars were parked in front of the Smart’s house when police arrived. While all of these people meant well, they did not realize that their presence was contaminating a crime scene. The police were later faulted for waiting until 6:54 AM to seal off the house, almost 3 hours after Ed Smart had called 911.
It was soon determined that the kidnapper had entered the house through the kitchen window. The kidnapper had left a lawn chair under the window, which the Smarts had forgotten to lock after leaving open to air out the smell of burnt potatoes from the previous nights supper. The intruder had cut through the window screen and climbed in over the counter, careful not to disturb anything.
Police bloodhounds attempted to pick up Elizabeth’s scent,but the trail the dogs found apparently ended several feet from the house. With no evidence of an unfamiliar car in the area, police concluded that Elizabeth and her captor had departed on foot. However, if they had left the house at 2:00 AM, they still had a considerable head start.
By 7:30 AM local television and radio stations were broadcasting emergency bulletins alerting the public that Elizabeth was missing. By 9:00 AM, 100 police officers and volunteers were searching the area for Elizabeth and a man who fit Mary Katherine’s description. State police helicopters widened the area of the search.
After learning of Elizabeth’s disappearance, Gordon B. Hinkley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reached out to the Smart family and offered his help. Hinkley notified LDS Churches in 5 states, distributing Elizabeth’s photograph and urging church members to join in the search.
Bob Smither of the Laura Recovery Center was also asked to lend his expertise. Smither and his wife had founded the center after their daughter Laura had been kidnapped and murdered in 1998. Smither, who is based in Texas, sent a volunteer to help organize the many volunteers who had congregated at the local Shriners Hospital. A massive community search effort, organized by the Laura Recovery Center, looked for Elizabeth in the days immediately following her abduction. Up to 2,000 volunteers a day were dispatched to the area surrounding her home trying to find any trace of the missing girl. Word spread quickly as an impromptu coalition of websites facilitated the distribution of information about Elizabeth Smart with preformatted fliers that could be downloaded for printing or immediately circulated on line by email or Internet fax. Volunteers combed the hills near her family’s home and extended the search using search dogs and aircraft. After many days of intensive searching, the community-led search was closed by the local volunteers and efforts were directed to other means of finding Elizabeth.
Tom Smart, Ed’s oldest brother and a journalist for the Deseret Morning News, became the spokesman for the family. Thousands of missing posters were printed featuring several photos of Elizabeth from different angles and with different expressions. The Utah Missing Persons Clearinghouse distributed 800 fliers to police departments and school districts in neighboring states. The police also expanded their search beyond Utah into southeast Idaho and Oregon where there had been two recent child abductions.
The Smarts had recently put their million-dollar house on the market, and in the past few months they had done renovations and repairs to get the house ready for sale. The police compiled a list of contractors, repairmen, and real-estate brokers who had been at the house so they could be interviewed. They also checked the Smarts’ home computers to see if a sexual predator might have approached Elizabeth in an on line chat room, but they found no evidence of any such contact, and the family reported that Elizabeth never used the Internet. The police offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who came forward with solid information that would lead to Elizabeth’s rescue.
On June 5th, Ed Smart emerged from the house and faced a gang of reporters and television journalists who had camped out on the curb. Wrestling his emotions and nearly overcome with grief, Ed stepped up to the microphones and spoke directly to his daughter.
“Elizabeth, if you’re out there, we’re doing everything we possibly can to help you.”
Fighting back tears, he then addressed the kidnapper.
“Please let her go. Please!”
The next day, Ed and Lois Smart announced that private donors had put together a $250 000 reward for information that would bring back their daughter.
Richard Albert Ricci, soon shot to the top of the list of suspects in Elizabeth’s kidnapping. Ricci had done some painting and yard work for the Smart’s in the spring of 2001. He was outgoing and talkative, and the family liked him. Ed Smart had even struck a deal with Ricci, agreeing to give the handyman his white 1990 Jeep Cherokee in exchange for additional work on his home. But as the police checked into the back grounds of people who had worked at the Smart’s home, they discovered that Ricci was an ex-con who had stolen in the past to support a heroin habit. He had also abused prescription drugs and was an alcoholic. His modus was to sneak into the homes of people he worked for and steal items from the children’s rooms, items that might be assumed to have been carelessly lost rather than stolen.
The more the police dug into Ricci’s past, the worse it got. Ricci, 48, had a rap sheet that started when he was 19. He was a four time parole violator, and the most serious of his many crimes was the shooting of Salt Lake police officer, Mike Hill, in 1983 while robbing a pharmacy. He was also stocky and closer in build to the man Mary Katherine described. He had been working full-time at a local nursery, but the day of Elizabeth’s abduction happened to be his day off. A neighbor had also told police that in the course of a conversation one day, Ricci had said without prompting that he would surely be ‘implicated’ in the kidnapping because he had worked for the Smart’s.
Ricci and his wife allowed the police to search his home without a warrant and declined to get legal representation. Buried in the tomato patch, investigators found perfume bottles, jewelry, and a wine glass containing sea shells. Ed Smart identified these items as items that had been missing from his home. A search of Ricci’s in-laws’ home produced a machete and a light colored hat.
Ed Smart had a hard time accepting that a man he had trusted could have done anything to harm his daughter, but in time he came to believe that even if Ricci wasn’t the actual culprit, he was somehow involved and knew more than he was saying.
On June 14th, the police arrested Ricci on a parole violation charge. They didn’t want him to go anywhere.
At this point Brian David Mitchell, a.k.a ‘Emmanuel’, was not high on the list of possible suspects, and if the police had tried to locate him, it would have been extremely difficult to find him because he was living in the wilderness of Dry Creek Canyon outside of Salt Lake City with his wife, Wanda Barzee, and the person he intended to take as his second wife, Elizabeth Smart.
On the night of the kidnapping, Mitchell had forced Elizabeth to hike four miles up into the canyon where he had previously constructed a concealed shelter for his new bride. He had dug a twenty foot long trough and built a lean-to over it. Soon after their arrival at the campsite, he insisted that Elizabeth take off her pajamas so he could burn them. She was given white robes to wear, just like her captors. He also tied a cable around her leg and tethered her to a tree so she wouldn’t run off.
Mitchell, a self-anointed priest, planned to preform the marriage ceremony that would join him to Elizabeth. Barzee, his loyal follower, supported his desire to take Elizabeth as a wife. Though the LDS Church had officially banned polygamy in 1890, Mitchell firmly believed that multiple marriage was God’s will and that the church had been wrong to abandon the practice. Mitchell and Barzee kept Elizabeth imprisoned at their makeshift compound in the canyon from June 5th until August 8th, when Salt Lake City residents started seeing the familiar robed couple, who they sometimes referred to as ‘Joseph and Mary’, with a similarly dressed young girl. Barzee and Elizabeth wore veils that covered the lower halves of their faces. The couple took Elizabeth to some of their old haunts, including fast food restaurants that had inexpensive all-you-can-eat buffets. They typically ate voraciously, mostly salad. An employee at one restaurant later reported that he has seen Elizabeth leave the table by herself to refill her plate at the buffet and returned to finish her meal. Whether she feared for her life or had succumbed to what her father would later call ‘brainwashing’, Elizabeth showed no outward signs that she was being held against her will.
The people who saw the unusual trio considered them eccentric but harmless characters. They were often spotted around town. Hikers and bicyclists ran into them in the canyon. No one ever considered the possibility that this girl in the dirty white robes could be the kidnapped teenager whose photograph was on posters all over the state. And they never considered the possibility that she was with this unconventional couple because she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological condition in which a victim comes to identify and sympathize with her oppressors, just as heiress Patty Hearst had when she was held captive in 1974.
When a child is abducted, the police cannot rule out family members as possible suspects, so the Salt Lake City police asked the male members of the Smart family to submit to polygraph tests administered by the FBI. Tom Smart writes in his book, In Plain Sight, that his polygraph test took nearly 8 hours, most of it grueling and gut-wrenching. Ed Smart described his polygraph experience on June 9th, 2002, as ’4 hours of hell’. Ultimately the lie-detector tests did not single out a possible suspect within the family.
On August 27th, six and a half weeks after his arrest, Ricci was taken to Third District Court for a brief hearing on burglary charges. Ed and Lois Smart attended the hearing, desperate for some kind of sign from him that he knew where Elizabeth was, but Ricci avoided eye contact with them.
That evening in jail, Ricci called a guard to his cell, complaining of a severe headache and shortness of breath. Within minutes he collapsed and fell unconscious. He was rushed to University Hospital where he fell into a coma. Doctors determined that Ricci had suffered a brain hemorrhage, and the next morning surgeons operated to remove fluid on his brain. He lay unconscious, his doctors certain that he had sustained brain damage. His prognosis wasn’t good, and his wife considered taking him off of life support.
When the Smart’s learned of Ricci’s condition, they panicked. What if Ricci did know something about Elizabeth’s kidnapping? That information would die with him if he were removed from life support. They felt they couldn’t afford to let Mrs. Ricci pull the plug on her husband. But ultimately Ricci’s wife did not have to make the fateful decision to end her husband’s life. Three days after he collapsed in his cell, Richard Ricci died on his own.
The Smarts now felt that they had lost their best chance to learn what had happened to their daughter.
One night in October 2002, Mary Katherine Smart, who was now 10 years old, walked into her parents’ bedroom and went over to her father.
“I think I know who it is,” she told him. “Emmanuel.”
She explained that she had been flipping through the Guinness Book Of World Records, and it suddenly came to her. The man she had seen in her bedroom, the man who took her sister Elizabeth, was the homeless man that had worked at their house for half a day nearly a year ago.
Ed Smart immediately told police what Mary Katherine had told him, but their response was lukewarm. Emmanuel was already on the long list of people they wanted to interview, and they were a little skeptical of the ten year olds sudden recovered memory. The police still considered the late Richard Ricci their prime suspect and conducted their investigation under that theory. Besides, they had already searched their computerized files for anyone who used the alias ‘Emmanuel’ and had come up empty. They didn’t realize that Brian David Mitchell was indeed in their system, having been arrested for shoplifting in September. Unfortunately the arresting officer had entered his name as ‘Immanuel’.
Impatient with the police’s investigation and doubtful that Ricci was the true culprit, the Smarts decided to initiate their own efforts to find their daughter. They contacted John Walsh, the host of America’s Most Wanted, who had just started a daytime talk show. America’s Most Wanted had previously given some coverage to Elizabeth’s kidnapping, and on December 14th, Walsh broadcasted a new segment on her, updating the public on the state of the investigation. More significantly, Walsh appeared on the talk show Larry King Live on December 23rd to promote his own new talk show. King asked Walsh about the Smart case, and Walsh revealed Mary Katherine’s memory of Emmanuel.
“Their young daughter has now said that she believes that Ricci wasn’t the guy in there that night,” Walsh told King on national television, “that it may have been another guy that did some work on the roof,an itinerant guy….” Walsh promised that America’s Most Wanted would stay on the case.
Seven weeks later, on February 15th, 2003, America’s Most Wanted aired a new segment on Elizabeth’s disappearance, and this time they showed composite sketches of ‘Emmanuel’ done by sketch artist Dalene Nielson at the request of the Smart family.
Derrick Thompson happened to be watching the show from his home that night. His jaw dropped when he heard the description of ‘Emmanuel’ and saw the sketches. He immediately called his brother, Mark, to tell him to turn on the TV. Derrick and Mark were Wanda Barzee’s sons. Mitchell was their stepfather. They decided to go out and try and find Mitchell and their mother.
Mitchell’s ex-wife Debbie also saw that episode of America’s Most Wanted and strongly felt that ‘Emmanuel’ was the man that had once been her husband. She called the police and told them all she knew about Mitchell,including her daughter’s memories of being sexually abused by him. It was her opinion that if Mitchell was indeed the kidnapper, he would not have killed Elizabeth.
New information was now flowing in via the television show. The Smarts felt that this was a positive development, but they needed the police to evaluate these leads. However, there was one critical piece of information that no one knew at this point. On the day the show aired, Mitchell was already in police custody in California.
Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth had left Utah sometime in the fall and relocated to Lakeside, California, 25 miles east of San Diego. Mitchell might have picked Lakeside because it had a large transient population and he figured he and his traveling companions would blend in there. But even here Mitchell managed to stand out, preaching loudly in the commercial district and making a nuisance of himself. Store owners complained to the police who confronted Mitchell on several occasions, giving him warnings and forcing him to move on.
But preaching wasn’t the only thing on Mitchell’s mind. He wanted to take another wife, and he had set his sights on the 12 year old daughter of an LDS Church official in a neighboring community. Mitchell tied back his long hair, put on jeans and a checkered shirt,and went to Sunday services, pretending to be interested in learning more about the religion. Virl Kemp, the father of his target, invited Mitchell who had introduced himself as ‘Peter’, to his home for dinner, hoping to answer any of the man’s questions about the church. During the meal, Kemp got the impression from Mitchell’s questions that he knew a lot more about the LDS Church than he was letting on. Michael’s real purpose was to case out the house. Later that winter he tried to break in to kidnap Kemp’s daughter just as he had kidnapped Elizabeth, but Kemp’s house was burglar proof, and Mitchell was forced to abandon his plan.
Several weeks later, on February 15th, 2003, Mitchell broke into the preschool at the Lakeside Presbyterian Church. A neighbor reported that she had seen a man in his long johns climbing through a window at the preschool. When police arrived, they found Mitchell asleep on a classroom floor. He told them his name was ‘Michael Jenson’ and gave a false date of birth, but his fingerprints revealed his true identity. Unfortunately his computer records did not show that he had skipped out on a court date in Utah on the shoplifting charge in September because it was only a misdemeanor. The police held him over the Presidents Day weekend until a hearing could be scheduled.
In the meantime, Barzee became frantic when Mitchell did not return to their make shift camp in the woods, one of several Mitchell had set up in the area. Barzee ran to another campsite where Mitchell had built an altar, which they called Golgotha after the hill where Jesus was crucified. She wept and prayed for hours, pleading with God for Mitchell’s safe return. Elizabeth was left behind on their own, but she did not try to escape.
When Mitchell finally got his hearing, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of vandalism. The judge gave him 3 years of probation, a $250 fine, and a stern warning to stay away from any church that doesn’t want him on their property. Mitchell, who insisted that his name was ‘Michael Jenson’, promised to follow the judges orders and said that the only reason he had broken into the preschool was because he had gotten drunk that night. Many people would later attest to the fact that Mitchell had a taste for beer.
Two weeks later, on March 1st, America’s Most Wanted broadcasted an update on the Elizabeth Smart case with the photos of Mitchell provided by Barzee’s sons. A viewer from Lakeside, California, called in and said a man fitting Mitchell’s description had been seen in her area, traveling with two women wearing veils over their faces. The Salt Lake City Police Department sent an investigator to Lakeside to follow upon his lead.
That same week a librarian at the Lakeside branch of the San Diego County public library saw Mitchell, Barzee, and Elizabeth, dirty and disheveled, sitting at a library table. She recognized them because they had come in before, but this time they weren’t wearing their robes. Elizabeth wore sunglasses and sat silently as Mitchell studied an atlas for nearly an hour.
On March 4th, a man driving along the highway north of San Diego noticed 3 people in robes on the side of the road. It was pouring rain, and the driver stopped to ask if they wanted a ride. Mitchell’s accepted the man’s offer and introduced himself as ‘Peter’. He said his daughter’s name was ‘Augustine’. He told the driver that they were on their way to Las Vegas where he planned to preach God’s message. The trio rode with the man for about 40 miles, then set off on foot.
Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth were next spotted a week later on March 11th, in North Las Vegas, begging for change in front of a Burger King. They were not wearing their robes and looked like average down-on-their-luck transients. Employees at the fast food restaurant called the police, complaining that the trio was harassing customers, but by the time officers arrived, they were gone. The officers found them nearby and questioned them. Mitchell said his name was ‘Peter Marshall’ and that Barzee was his wife ‘Juliette’. Elizabeth,, he said, was his daughter ‘Augustine’. With no reason to detain them, the police told them to move on.
The next day the trio resurfaced in downtown Sandy,Utah, 40 miles south of Salt Lake City. Mitchell was wearing a green tee shirt and a brown hat. Barzee wore a scarf over her hair. Elizabeth wore a gray wig and large sunglasses.
Just before 1:00 PM, Salt Lake City Police received 2 separate 911 calls from women who thought they had spotted Mitchell in Sandy. Sitting in her car, watching the trio trudge down the street, Nancy Montoya, a fan of America’s Most Wanted, was sure that she was looking at the man whose face she had seen several times on the show. At almost the same time, Anita Dickerson spotted Mitchell and recognized him from photos shown on local news programs. She got out of her car and walked close enough to him to get a good look at his face, and then immediately called 911.
Sandy Police Officer Karen Jones was the first on the scene. She stopped the trio and asked for some identification. Mitchell told her they were they ‘Marshall’ family from Miami, Florida, and said they didn’t need identification because they were messengers from God.
The next officer to arrive was Troy Rasmussen. As soon as he saw the girl in the gray wig, he was convinced that it was Elizabeth Smart. Rasmussen called for assistance, and the police separated Elizabeth from Mitchell and Barzee and questioned her alone. She said that she was 18 and insisted that she was not Elizabeth Smart. They asked her questions about her parents’ background, and she stumbled with her answers, then changed course and said they were her stepparents. She openly showed her annoyance with the officers and their persistent questions. When they asked why she was wearing a wig, she insisted that it was her real hair.
Salt Lake city investigators arrived, and they continued the questioning. At one point they showed her a missing person poster with a photograph of herself. Her face was thinner in the photo, and her arms and shoulders weren’t as developed. Hiking through the mountains, hauling a backpack had built up her muscles. She stared at the picture, tears brimming in her eyes.
The officers asked her again if she was Elizabeth Smart.
“If you sayeth, I sayeth.” she answered.
Later that day, Ed Smart was called to a Salt Lake police station. He thought he was being summoned to identify ‘Emmanuel’, but when he walked into a holding room and saw Elizabeth sitting on a couch, he was stunned. An investigator asked if this was his daughter. “Yes!” he cried and ran to her, hugging her close. He looked into Elizabeth’s face and asked if it was really her.
“Yes.” she said, holding him tight.
Ed Smart wanted to bring his daughter home immediately, but the police detained her a while longer for further questioning, so they could start building their case against Mitchell and Barzee. Word spread quickly that Elizabeth had been found, and people celebrated in the streets.
Elizabeth was reunited with her family that night, and seeing her mother and siblings brought her further out of the nightmare she had been living. Her parents just assumed that she would want to sleep in their bedroom for a while until she adjusted, but to their surprise she said she wanted to sleep in her own bed with her sister Mary Katherine. Lois Smart writes in the book she wrote with her husband, Bringing Elizabeth Home, that Elizabeth told her, “Mom, don’t worry. I’m just fine. I’m going to be safe. I’m going to be here in the morning.”
Elizabeth’s adjustment to her old life was quick. She had matured and changed physically in the time that she was gone, and when she tried to play her beloved harp, she found that she was very out of practice. But despite the traumatic events of the past nine months, she seemed to regain her place in the family with relative ease. Everyone was happy for her and her family, but one question lingered in the publics mind: What exactly did Mitchell do to her during her captivity?
David Smart, Elizabeth’s uncle, told reporters that a doctor had examined her and that she was not pregnant and had never been pregnant. But the family refused to answer any questions about sexual assault.
Elizabeth Smart and her family were featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, several months after Elizabeth’s return home, where Winfrey questioned the Smarts about the kidnapping. One detail Elizabeth disclosed is that Mitchell forced her to keep a diary and to write in it daily. She knew he would read the entries she made, so she wrote such things as: “I like it here. They are nice to me.” But below the entries in English, she wrote in French things such as: “I hate it here. I hate them. I want to be back with my family.” She also revealed that after her experience, she has more compassion for the homeless. Asked if she felt sorry for her captors, she stated that she was not referring to them and that they were homeless by choice and she had no compassion for their condition or what they did to her. But she went on to say, “It’s hard to be cold. It’s hard to not have enough to eat.”
Mitchell and Barzee were arrested and held at the Salt Lake County Adult Detention Center. According to authors Haberman and MacIntosh, when Mitchell was asked for his current address, he said “Heaven on Earth” and gave “God” as his emergency contact. Though he had told various people over the past few months that Elizabeth was his daughter, his attorney, Larry Long, told a television reporter that Mitchell considered the girl his wife. His name for Elizabeth was Shear Jashub Isaiah, “Remnant who will return.”
On March 18th, Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom announced that Mitchell and Barzee would be charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and aggravated sexual assault as well as attempted aggravated kidnapping for trying to snatch Elizabeth’s cousin, Jessica Wright, from her home on July 24th, 2002. According to the probable cause statement, Mitchell had “committed a rape, attempted rape, forcible sexual abuse or attempted forcible sexual abuse.”
For several months Mitchell and Barzee were held on $10,000,000 bond. If and when Mitchell and Barzee are ever tried, the details of the alleged sexual assault will come to light and Elizabeth herself will most likely be called to testify. However, the court ruled that neither Mitchell nor Barzee are mentally competent to stand trial. Mitchell has been ejected from several of his mental competency hearings for singing the hymn, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand.” His lawyers have said that he is unable to assist in his own defense and that he has become increasingly delusional since his arrest. Despite these claims, we have heard from sources close to employees at the mental hospital where Mitchell and Barzee are being held, that while it is their opinion that Wanda Barzee may truly be insane and have been brainwashed by Mitchell, Brian David Mitchell is very cold and calculating, able to manipulate others easily. It is also their opinion that Mitchell IS NOT insane. However, Mitchell and Barzee might never be tried and the details of Elizabeth Smart’s time under Mitchell’s spell will remain a private matter, known only to Elizabeth, her captors, and her family.
Seven months after Elizabeth came home, Ed and Lois did an interview for a local newspaper. Here is what they had to say.
Ed Smart: “They were nine months that you couldn’t imagine ever happening in your life, to think that somebody would come into the house and take her was just, something you couldn’t believe would ever happen.”
On June 5th, 2002, 9 year old Mary Katherine Smart awoke to find her sister being kidnapped by a strange man.
Lois Smart: ““She was frightened. She had a blanket. She was—
As she came in she said, ‘Elizabeth’s gone. A man took her with a gun.’ And of course being awoken to that, it was like, this is a bad dream.
Within the next three or four minutes, it seemed like an eternity, while we were going around the house and checking everything.”
Ed Smart: “Checking each of the rooms and as you went from one room, didn’t find her, and it was — the adrenaline starts building to a point where you just, you know, is this really possible?”
Lois Smart: “When he came upstairs and says she’s not on the sofa, and I went flying down and turned on every light. And I saw that she wasn’t there either. As my eyes panned the room, I saw this cut screen. And I knew.”
Lois Smart: “I was hysterical, and I was— we were yelling. I was yelling for Ed, ‘Call the police! Call the police!’ It’s a horrible, horrible feeling.”
The police came immediately. And Ed has said, “I remember feeling as if the police didn’t have control over the situation. It was as if they were waiting for something to happen or somebody to come and tell them what to do. I was bothered that they weren’t out looking for my daughter.’”
Ed Smart: “I don’t know that police handled kidnappings every day. I don’t think it’s— I hope it’s not a common occurrence.”
Lois Smart: “We couldn’t understand, why aren’t you out there looking for her? You know, why are you taking us? Let us help. Let us do something.”
Shortly after arriving, police began questioning every member of the Smart family.
Lois Smart: “They took Charles and Andrew, our two oldest boys, and questioned them. Well, you know, it’s your friends, did your friends like Elizabeth, did she run off with somebody?”
Ed Smart: “Or did you kill your sister.”
Lois Smart: “Things like that were very hurtful.”
Even as they faced police interrogations, the Smarts called upon their extended family to help publicize Elizabeth’s name and picture and to organize a massive search. Ed was at the center of it all, and so overwhelmed that in those first days, he had a breakdown.
Ed Smart: “Everything was totally out of control. And Lois had my father come over and it was just, it was very tough. And he took me to the hospital. And I just sat there crying and crying.”
A devout Mormon, Ed says he was rescued, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, by his faith.
Ed Smart: “My father came over with my bishop and gave me a blessing that, you know, I would be able to cope with things and that I needed to be home. There were forces greater and I just, I knew that I had to get up and I had to go home.”
And at home, Lois too was struggling to keep herself together, struggling even to get out of bed. In some ways, she said, it was William, the baby of the family, who helped the most.
Lois Smart: “Many mornings he’d come in and, ‘Mom, I need to eat. Mom, get out of bed, I need to do this,’ because it would’ve been very easy to just lie in bed. I have to think that’s part of the miracle. How I can even pull myself out of bed in the morning, and continue tending to the other children, and knowing that if I didn’t, you know, that’s as good as giving them up, too.”
Lois worried the most about Mary Katherine.
Lois Smart: “Elizabeth had stubbed her toe. And she said ouch. And he said, ‘Don’t make a sound or I’ll kill you and Mary Katherine heard that. She was so terrified, she didn’t come to our room right away”
Ed Smart: “She tried.”
Lois Smart: “She did. She got out immediately. And saw them walking down the hall. And she thought that they were going towards her brothers’ bedroom. And that he was going to take them as well. And she thought that he saw her and she went running back and jumped into bed.”
Lois worried that Mary Katherine’s terror and the pressure she felt to remember what she’d seen to help the police might be too much, that the criminal who took one daughter’s body, might have taken the other’s spirit.
Lois Smart: “We can’t lose both daughters. Because they both had gone through so much. And yet we had one with us. But she was dealing with and living with the idea that her sister was gone. And she was the only one that witnessed that.”
Lois committed herself to holding the family together. Ed committed himself to pushing the investigation forward any way he could.
Ed Smart: “The biggest reason was to keep Elizabeth’s face out there. If you kept her face out there maybe someone would see her, if she was out there.”
Lois Smart: “I think that’s the worst torture for a mother, thinking about a child being hurt, or sick, or needs help and you can’t be there to help them and comfort them. I mean, that’s worse than anything.”
The entire Smart family sought comfort in prayer. Lois says all the children prayed for Elizabeth.
Lois Smart: “Bless her that she’ll be warm. Help her that she’ll have food. Bless Elizabeth that she’ll be strong. That she’ll be able to make it through this.”
She says they would even pray for Elizabeth’s abductor — although her youngest had trouble with that word.
Lois Smart: “William, our four year old, would say, “‘Bless the conductor. Let him let Elizabeth go.’”
Police were going through lists of everyone the Smarts knew, everyone who’d ever been in their home. Very soon they hit on a name: Richard Ricci.
Ed Smart: “Circumstantially, he was the person.”
Ed Smart: “We didn’t find out until we were into the investigation that he had broken into our neighbor’s home. When that came up, it was just like this big light turned on, like well, good heavens.”
But there was one person who doubted Ricci was the kidnapper, the sole witness, nine-year-old Mary Katherine.
Ed Smart: “When Mary Katherine saw his picture on TV, ‘What’s Richard doing there?’ It wasn’t Richard.”
Lois Smart: “But we weren’t always comfortable with that, when Mary Katherine said that, because it was dark.”
Ed Smart: “It was very dark.”
Lois Smart: “And that’s a lot of pressure, putting that on a nine-year-old and saying, you know, could you really see a face? Could she really be certain that it was not Richard Ricci?”
On August 27th, the prime suspect had a brain aneurysm. Richard Ricci died August 30th.
Lois Smart: “Part of me felt that we may never know where she was now.”
It was September. Elizabeth had been missing for three months now. Deep inside, Lois realized for her own sanity she had to accept the fact that Elizabeth might never come home.
Lois Smart: “In order for me to carry on, I couldn’t live in that darkness, always thinking, what is she going through? What is happening to her? And to feel like maybe she was in a better place where she wasn’t suffering was easier for me.”
Lois Smart: “I found her cowboy boots and her spurs and her hat and her gloves. And I thought, I’m gonna do this ride for Elizabeth.”
Lois Smart: “I broke down and accepted the possibility that she may not be coming back. I remember I took the pin that I always wore of Elizabeth, and took it off and put it on a rock up there. And it was my way of letting go.”
Ed Smart: “I couldn’t accept the possibility that Elizabeth might be dead And I said to her if you feel so strongly, we’ve got to have a memorial service, because I can’t stop. I just can’t.”
Then Lois suddenly knew she didn’t want that either. As much as she needed to let go, she needed Ed to hold on.
Lois Smart: “So when he came to me and said we need to have a memorial. I said absolutely not. We are not going to have that. We don’t know. I didn’t want Ed ever to feel the same way as I did. And with him feeling the way he did, and I felt the way I did, it worked better for us.”
By October, Elizabeth had been missing for four months now. The trail seemed utterly cold. After Richard Ricci’s death police continued to investigate him, but found nothing that would lead them to Elizabeth. Lois was trying to accept the inevitable. Ed could not. He wanted to keep searching, but had no idea where. Then, another night-time visit from Mary Katherine would change everything.
Lois Smart: “We had been out that night. And she — it was later. And she’d come into our bedroom and said, ‘I think I know who did it, Dad.’”
On March 12th, Elizabeth Smart was found, and reunited with her overjoyed family.
During the questioning after being found, Elizabeth told the police that she had spent the first 2 months of her captivity in a camp in the hills above the Smarts home and at times she could actually hear searchers calling her name. And although she wanted to run away or call out she couldn’t. She was tethered to a chain that gave her about 20 feet of room to move. The one time that her kidnapper forgot to tether her she tried to slip away and he ran after her, threatening her that he could kill her or kill her family so she better not try to run away again.
Chris Thomas, the family spokesman, said not long after Elizabeth’s return that the family had been deluged with up to 100 book and television movie offers, and that they would be considered in the coming weeks. ”The question is, do you let someone else tell the story, or do you tell the story?” he asked. ”There are some people who may exploit the family, and that’s unfortunate.’‘
In the end, the Smart’s made decisions about how to get the accurate account of their ordeal to the public. Several books were penned regarding Elizabeth’s story and a made for TV movie was produced. The made for TV movie titled, The Elizabeth Smart Story, aired November 9th, 2003 on CBS. The Smarts claimed they wanted to avoid subjecting their daughter to the limelight, but that after realizing it was inevitable, they decided it would be preferable to allow a film authorized by them to be created, rather than allowing an unauthorized version to surface. Following is a list of books written about Elizabeth Smart’s ordeal.
Bringing Elizabeth Home Written By: Ed and Lois Smart
Held Captive Written By: Maggie Haberman and Jeane MacIntosh
In Plain Sight Written By: Tom Smart and Lee Benson
Edward Smart, seeking to understand what his daughter had endured, had spoken with Patricia Hearst, who, in the apparent grip of the Stockholm syndrome, grew to empathize with her kidnappers three decades ago. The family never pushed Elizabeth into telling them about her 9-month ordeal. Rather, they allowed her to come to them over time and open up as she became comfortable to do so.
Recently, a member of Lighting Their Way Home was honored to have the privilege of interviewing Elizabeth Smart.
Elizabeth Ann Smart is now a 20-year-old music major at Brigham Young University, working as a bank clerk. She calls her life today “great,” but she still harbors some fear of her alleged kidnappers, who are being held in a Utah mental hospital. (Just ½ a mile from where Elizabeth attends school)
The 15-year-old was reportedly forced to live for nine months as Mitchell’s wife. Mitchell and Barzee were both charged with Elizabeth’s kidnapping, amongst many other charges, but were ruled unfit to stand trial. If they face trial, though, Smart says she is ready to testify against them.
“I don’t think I really want to, but I don’t want them getting back out,” she said. “I don’t want them ever out because I really, I really believe that they wouldn’t stop. I think that if they were to be released, I think they would come back and they would try to come back after me and I don’t think that they … that any child or any human should ever be in danger of having that happen again.”
Smart also says strangers often recognize her. “A lot of the times people don’t say anything, they just kind of get that look on their face … and then sometimes they’ll point,” she said. “You just keep on going. And then if someone comes up to me and says, ‘oh, we prayed for you,’ I say, ‘thank, thank you very much. We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s prayers and support,’ and keep going.”
For those who prayed for Smart five years ago and who followed her story and rejoiced in her homecoming, she has a message.
“I’m doing great. I want to thank everybody for everything that they have ever done for me, for the prayers, the thoughts that they have given to me. I truly appreciate it, and I love being alive, I love being here, I’m excited for my life ahead of me. I am just so thankful for every blessing that I have. I am fine, I will be fine.”
Elizabeth has partnered with the Justice Department to author a book about her life as a kidnapping survivor to help others who are in a similar situation. She has also been an active lobbyist for legislation coined Not One More Child. The program would provide funding to law enforcement agencies to locate criminals who traffic child pornography.
Elizabeth Smart, along with her family, have displayed a great amount of courage in how they handled this tragedy from the moment they discovered Elizabeth missing right up until this very day. After the family endured this nightmare, they realized that there was so much they could do to help others in similar situations, and they have never hesitated to reach out to others suffering in the face of a similar tragedy. They are actively involved with many organizations aiming to help missing and exploited children. The Smart family has used their tragedy to bring awareness to this plague facing the world today. They did not stop their fight after Elizabeth was brought home to them, instead they carried on, fighting for other children that truly need their help. The Smart family is an inspiration to us all and a wonderful reminder to never give up hope. They proved that it is never to late to bring their child home, and if not for their persistence and strength, along with the support of their family and friends, their story may not have had a happy ending.
Elizabeth is a true testament to the strength, courage and hope that Ed and Lois raised their children to have. She has also been actively involved in helping to save other children from suffering the same fate she did. Elizabeth has shown the world her true colors in the way she has handled her situation, turning every negative into a positive way to help others. She is an amazing young woman, whom suffered an ordeal that no one should suffer. Our thoughts will always be with the Smart family in the years to come. All of us at Lighting Their Way Home would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the Smart family for everything they have done, and are continuing to do to help others in need. Thank You Smart Family!!!