Elizabeth Smart calls kidnapper is the release of “incomprehensible”
The kidnapping of survivor releases statement in anticipation of the release of the woman convicted in her 2002 abduction; Alicia Acuna reports on the surprise decision of the court.
Family members of Wanda Barzee, the woman who helped kidnap and torture Elizabeth Smart more than 16 years ago, that is not to say that the roll-out of the welcome mat at the 72-year-old criminal is released from prison next week.
“From what I know, no family can take her in his or her in,” Barzee his niece Tina Mace.
Utah authorities announced last week that they had miscalculated Barzee’s sentence and that she would be released Wednesday.
The news stoked fears about whether Barzee remains a threat, and underscored serious concerns about the mental health care in America is in prison.
Barzee has spent the past 15 years behind bars. She pleaded guilty to helping the former street preacher Brian David Mitchell of kidnapping Smart in 2002. She was convicted on both state and federal crimes and was transferred to the Utah state prison in April 2016 after completing a federal sentence in Texas.
Utah’s Board of Pardons and parole had refused Barzee beginning of the early release after a June hearing, which she chose not to participate. She said that she had also refused to take a psychological exam and a release date in January 2024.
During her months in captivity, Smart said Barzee was in the neighborhood and encouraged Mitchell as he raped the teen.
Smart, now a 30-year-old mother, speaker and activist, said she is deeply concerned that Barzee still a threat, the mention of her refusal to cooperate with the mental health services in the prison and the reports that they can still the port of Mitchell’s beliefs.
“I do not believe that they are dangerous?” Smart asked. “Yes, but not only me. I believe that they are a danger and a threat to any vulnerable person in our community.”
Federal agents have secured a place for Barzee to life when she starts her five years of supervised release, said Eric Anderson, Deputy head of the U.S. probation officer for Utah. He refused to say whether they in a private home or a facility, but said: “they will not be homeless,” he said.
Barzee’s attorney Scott Williams has maintained that they are no threat.
Barzee was treated at the Utah State Hospital for about five years after her arrest, and testified in 2010 against Mitchell.
On the stand, Barzee described a “hellish” first year of marriage, that eased once she “learned to be submissive and obedient,” and his later statement that “God’s will” they sold all their possessions and travel the country, with long robes.
Eventually, Mitchell kidnapped then-14-year-old Smart at knifepoint, forced her into a polygamous “marriage” and raped her almost daily.
She was found nine months later, while walking with Barzee and Mitchell on a street in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy.
Barzee testimony against Mitchell seemed to be a turning point, but her mental state seems to have changed in her later years in the federal and state prisons, Mace.
“She needs help,” the niece told The Deseret News, adding that her family is not able to take care of Barzee’s spiritual needs.
Mace told the newspaper how “normal” her aunt seemed in the past. She added that Barzee was always a little vulnerable, and that Mitchell was manipulative.
“I’m just happy that they nailed Brian because he knew what he was doing,” Mace said.
Mitchell is serving a life sentence.
Looking back at the captivity, Smart said Thursday that they believe Barzee treated her like a “servant” and “slave” is manipulated by her husband at times. “But she, in her own right, abused me as much as he is.”
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.