Elizabeth Smart writes emotional Instagram post on 18th anniversary of being found

File Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

PARK CITY, Utah, March 12, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Elizabeth Smart wrote an emotional Instagram post Friday, 18 years to the day after she was found in Sandy after being held captive for nine months.

In 2002, Brian David Mitchell snatched the then 14-year-old Smart out of her bed in Salt Lake City. Mitchell and Wanda Barzee held the teen captive, and she was raped repeatedly.

She was found on March 12, 2003, walking on a street in Sandy with her captors, some 18 miles from her home.

Smart, 33, shared her thoughts Friday in an Instagram post:

I remember 18 years ago today waking up to someone climbing on top of me to rape me. For the previous nine months that wasn’t anything new, every day had been a continuation of rape, manipulation, and lies. We had spent over a week trying to hitchhike back to Utah from California where my captors had kept me hidden through the worst of the winter months. The whole way back they told me as soon as we arrived back to Utah they were taking me straight back to the mountain hideout where I would be hidden forever.

So that cold morning I didn’t mind the hunger or all the cars rushing by without a second look because I was at least for a moment part of humanity. There were kind strangers that morning one who only drove us a few miles and dropped us off at McDonald’s for breakfast sandwiches, and another who expressed concern for my well-being despite aggravating my captors. That made Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee more anxious than ever to get me back to the hideout.

But before we could really make the trek to the hideout they had to stop at Walmart for essential supplies. Of course they stole it. I remember on the way out seeing the board in between doors with flyers and missing child posters, I tried to stop and look at them to see if my poster was still up but my captors became annoyed and snapped at me to stop drawing attention.

We were not far walking away from Walmart when a police car pulled over and pretty soon more came. I was terrified. For nine months nobody has been able to protect me and I had been told if I screamed, ran away, or did anything they didn’t want me to do they would kill me and my family. I believed them, they had done whatever they wanted without restraint.

Initially I didn’t answer the police’s questions. Finally I was separated and questioned away from my captors which was when I finally felt safe enough to admit who I was. I was handcuffed and put into the back of the police car where I was then taken to the station. It wasn’t until I saw my dad and he started hugging me again that I knew I was safe. It is because of this one day I will never loose my faith in the goodness of humanity and in miracles. I am forever grateful.

Smart now runs a foundation dedicated to “ending the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through prevention, recovery, and advocacy,” according to the foundation’s website. The foundation encourages individuals to use the hashtag #Ibelieveyou, in order to change the narrative for survivors of sexual violence.

Mitchell, now 67, 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.

Barzee, now 75, 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, and was released in September 2018.

Smart lives in Park City with her husband and their three young children; two girls and a boy.

She and her husband met while each served a France-Paris mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Smart has been nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her work as a special correspondent on “Crime Watch Daily.”


  1. Elizabeth, I remember this situation unfold. Then your absence. Then they found you. I always prayed they would find you. I have four daughters of my own and because of what happened I am considered a very overprotective dad. I was so glad to hear you were found back then. Then I came into Zions bank and there you were attending my transaction. Your ora was one that I felt the spirit of Christ. You have demonstrated that through forgiveness we can achieve the Lord’s work. Thank you & your family for all the sacrifices you all put forward. You all are an inspiration to the truth. May it set us all free!


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