SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 19, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — The co-kidnapper of Elizabeth Smart, Wanda Eileen Barzee, has been released from Utah State Prison.
With media outlets waiting all night to capture the first pictures of her as she left, the Utah Department of Corrections confirmed that Barzee was released sometime Wednesday morning, and was likely bused from the prison due to security concerns.
Barzee, now 72, will now commence five years of supervised release under her federal sentence.
She was denied parole in July, and Smart told the media Thursday she was told at that time that Barzee would be released in 2024.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole said back on July 2 that Barzee would be granted a rehearing in January 2023, after the parole denial. Her sentence was due to expire one year later, in 2024, as Smart said.
According to a news release sent by Greg Johnson, director of administrative services for the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, the early release date stems from an issue during Barzee’s parole hearing in June, which she refused to attend.
“At Ms. Barzee’s parole hearing June 12, 2018 the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole (Board) did not give credit toward the Utah sentence for time served in federal prison,” the news release said.
The news release goes on to say that at the June hearing that “Ms. Barzee’s attorney contended that Ms. Barzee’s federal sentence should run concurrently with her state sentence and therefore the Board had miscalculated the end of Ms. Barzee’s state sentence….based on further review and advice from legal counsel, the Board must count the time in federal prison as credit to the Utah sentence and therefore Ms. Barzee’s sentence ends on Sept. 19, 2018.”
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, Smart posted a photo on Instagram of her speaking to Gayle King on “CBS This Morning,” which aired Tuesday, with the following caption: “Without doubt the past few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotion, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their kind words, support, and concern. It has meant so much to me. May we all remain vigilant in watching over our families, friends, and community from anyone who would seek to hurt or take advantage. I truly believe life is meant to be happy and beautiful, and no matter what happens that will remain my goal for me and for my family.”
She also posted a picture on Instagram last Thursday of herself as a young girl with her harp, with the following caption: “The past few days could certainly be described as shocking. Only a couple months ago I was informed one of my captors, Wanda Barzee, would not be released until 2024. Now she will be released in less than a week. I find this news greatly disturbing and incomprehensible. In my efforts to learn more it seems there are no viable legal options open to me at this time. So it is now that I ask those that have the power, and her family to start proceedings to have her be civilly committed. To my knowledge she has neither complied with medication or treatment and as some one who has experienced first hand just how depraved she truly is, I believe her to be a threat and a danger not just to myself but to the community, any vulnerable person. I am very concerned and precautions have been taken however I refuse to live in fear. I have spent the last 15 years rebuilding and moving forward with my life, having a family, and pursuing my goals. I lived in absolute fear and terror for nine months, no matter the outcome I will not do so again.” The post has more than 24,000 likes and some 1,700 comments on Instagram.
Barzee pleaded guilty in 2009 to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in connection with Smart’s abduction. Barzee was sentenced in 2010 to 15 years in federal prison, but got credit as part of a plea bargain for the seven years she’d already spent behind bars in both the Utah State Hospital and Salt Lake County Jail.
At the time Barzee was sentenced, she was also ordered to serve one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for state kidnapping charges in the Smart case.
She was transported back to the Utah State Prison in April 2016 after completing her federal prison term in Texas.
In 2002, Brian David Mitchell, Barzee’s then-husband, snatched the then 14-year-old Smart out of her bed. The couple held the teen captive for nine months.
Mitchell, now 64, was convicted in 2010 of aggravated kidnapping and illegally transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes. He is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Arizona.
Smart is now 30 years old, and lives in Park City with her husband and their two young children. She announced on Instagram that she is expecting her third child in November. She works as a victim’s advocate, and speaks widely on the topic.
She and her husband met while each served a France-Paris mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Earlier this year, she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her work as a special correspondent on “Crime Watch Daily.” She also runs a foundation dedicated to helping kidnap victims and their recovery.
Smart spoke with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday about her co-kidnapper.
She discussed with King what she knows about the conditions of Barzee’s release.
“I don’t know all the conditions of her release, but I have been reassured multiple times that she will be kept a very close eye on,” she said. “And as soon as she messes up, which I’ve been reassured that she will, she will be taken back to federal prison for the duration of the five years.”
She also spoke about what she has heard Barzee has been doing in prison — assertions that CBS said they have been unable to confirm.
“Through my sources, I’ve heard that she’s still carrying around this ‘book of revelations’ that Brian Mitchell wrote … that said he should kidnap me, and not just kidnap me but six other young girls, and that we’d all be his wives … clearly, she hasn’t let it go,” Smart told King.
Smart described how she decided to share her story in the hopes that it would help others.
“For years after I was rescued, I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened. … Truthfully, I think I was ashamed and I was embarrassed,” Smart said. “I didn’t want people to know that I’d been raped. … I think I got to a point where I just felt, like, ‘This is not okay.’ … No survivor should feel like they have to hide what happened to them. … And so if I, like, need to be the girl who’s known for being kidnapped and raped, then so be it. If it’s gonna help promote change and if it’s gonna help other survivors move forward with their lives and not feel ashamed of what’s happened? Fine. I’ll do it.”
For CBS This Morning’s full interview with Smart click here.