Elizabeth Smart, whose 2002 kidnapping and rescue became subject of international interest, has urged authorities to “reconsider” the release of one of her captors.
When she was just 14, Smart, now 30, was taken from her Salt Lake City, Utah, home by Brian David Mitchell and held captive in a wooded area for months, enduring daily rape and other horrific forms of abuse. Mitchell enlisted the help of his wife, Wanda Barzee, to keep Smart from escaping. Now, having served 15 years behind bars, Barzee is set to be released.
In a powerful few words to the press this week, Smart explained that the decision to free Barzee would be a huge mistake. The release, she added, had come as a “very big shock” to her, particularly as she recalled Barzee’s horrific behavior when she was being sexually assaulted.
“She is a woman who had six children,” Smart said of the 72-year-old Barzee, as reported by Fox News. “And yet co-conspired to kidnap a 14-year-old girl [Smart], and not only sit next to her while [Smart was] being raped, but encourage her husband to rape me.”
“So, do I believe that she is dangerous?” she continued. “Yes, but not just to me. I believe that she is a danger and a threat to any vulnerable person in our community.”
Smart, now married with two children of her own, has become a fierce advocate for child safety. But despite her serious reservations about Barzee’s controversial release, Smart noted that it did not seem that there was “any viable legal recourse” in challenging that decision.
Mitchell, a self-described prophet who insisted he was called “Emmanuel,” was handed down a life sentence without the possibility of parole after the defense’s plea of insanity was struck down.
“Wanda Barzee saw me as her slave,” Smart continued in her statement, according to CNN. “She called me her handmaiden and she never hesitated to let her displeasure with me be known.”
“There were times when, yes, absolutely, she was manipulated by Mitchell,” she said. “But she in her own right abused me as much as he did.”
“I think people should realize that she is dangerous and that she did appalling things while I was in captivity. … I know the depth of her depravity and so I feel like the community should be educated on it, but also, I think as a community, we need to once again take a second look at our judicial system,” she concluded.