Elizabeth Smart shared her fury on Tuesday after one of her kidnappers was granted parole after serving just 15 years behind bars for snatching her as a teenager and keeping her in the woods to be raped daily until she was saved by strangers.
Smart, now 30, was just 14 when Wanda Barzee and her one-time husband Brian David Mitchell snatched Smart from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mitchell knew her because he had been hired by her family to do handiwork at their home.
For nine months, the religion-obsessed couple kept Smart tied up in the woods where Mitchell subjected her to daily rapes and death threats.
She was eventually rescued when a stranger saw the three of them in the street and recognized the pair from an episode of America’s Most Wanted.
Barzee was granted parole on Tuesday after spending 15 years behind bars. It was a sudden reversal on the Utah Parole Board’s earlier decision that the seven years she spent in jail awaiting trial should not count towards her sentence.
The 72-year-old will be released on September 19 and will be under federal supervision for five years.
Smart said the decision was ‘incomprehensible’ and that she was ‘surprised and disappointed’ by it.
Barzee will be under federal supervision for five years.
In 2010, seven years after Smart was rescued, Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping.
She was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment but was given credit for already spending seven of them in custody.
Mitchell was given back to back life sentences.
The surprising decision to allow Barzee’s release comes just a month after the parole board said she would not be released until 2024.
The parole 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.
In June, Smart urged the parole board not to grant the woman’s release by saying she still carried a book which contains revelations her husband said he received from God telling him to keep Smart.
She said the manuscript also contains other ‘disturbing and dangerous ideas,’ though it is not clear how she knows she had it.
‘In this manuscript were the “revelations” Mitchell “received” from God to kidnap myself and six other young girls to be his wife.
‘It also “revealed” his other highly disturbing and dangerous ideas.’
‘This is proof to me that she hasn’t changed, and if the prior 15+ years hasn’t changed her I don’t see how the future years will,’ Smart said in an Instagram post in June, adding: ‘I do not think I’m a vindictive or vengeful person.
‘If change were truly possible in her case then perhaps parole/release could be justified.
Her father Ed said: ‘I would hate for her to have the opportunity to do that again to someone else.’
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.
She is expecting her third baby in November.