In an unexpected and quite bizarre development, one of the kidnappers in the notorious Elizabeth Smart case will be released from prison on September 19th, a full six years ahead of schedule. The surprising announcement comes on the heels of the June, 2018 denial of parole for Wanda Barzee, 72. Now the public is livid and demanding answers.
The kidnapping of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002, was one of the most notorious crimes in American history. And the fact that the victim was recovered, alive, nine months later made it even more lurid.
“On June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom in her family's house in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was rescued by police officers nine months later on March 12, 2003, on a public street in Sandy, Utah, 18 miles from her home, following the help of two witnesses who recognized abductors Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee from an ‘America's Most Wanted’ episode.”
The sentencing complication comes as a result of Barzee having been convicted of both federal and state crimes, and the issue stems from whether or not she should have received credit for time served in federal prison when she began her stint in a Utah state prison.
According to Fox News, “Barzee had admitted to helping her husband Brian Mitchell kidnap Smart from her bedroom in Salt Lake City in June 2002. The couple held the then-14-year-old Smart captive for nine months."
After the couple’s 2003 arrest, “Barzee pleaded guilty in federal court in November 2009. Three months later, she pleaded guilty to state charges for attempted kidnapping in connection to a plot to kidnap Smart’s cousin in July 2003 – about a month after Barzee and Mitchell nabbed Smart.
“In May 2010, Barzee was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State prison for aggravated kidnapping as a second-degree felony.
“Barzee returned to Utah in 2016 after completing her federal sentence in Texas and began serving her Utah prison sentence.
“In June, the parole board calculated her sentence would continue through January 2024, however that did not account for time served in federal prison.”
Now, as a result of the clerical miscalculation, the convicted kidnapper will taste freedom for the first time in eight years. Barzee is scheduled to be released on September 19th. Her husband, Mitchell, is serving two life sentences for his role in the abduction, and will only be leaving prison feet-first.
As for Elizabeth Smart? She has moved on from her horrendous ordeal and is now a married mother of two. She and husband Matthew Gilmour are expecting their third child in November.
She is also an activist for child safety and works tirelessly to prevent heartbreaking cases like hers and share her message of hope to those affected by crimes against children.
We wish them all the happiness in the world as they strive to make a beautiful new life out of the ashes of tragedy.