Woman who helped snatch Utah teen in 2002 released from prison


A woman who helped abduct Elizabeth Smart in 2002 and stood by as the Utah teenager was sexually assaulted has been released from prison.

Wanda Barzee, 72, left the state prison in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper after spending 15 years behind bars.

Her release comes after a surprise announcement last week that Utah authorities had miscalculated the amount of time she should spend in jail.

Ms Smart, now 30, had urged officials to reconsider their decision to release the woman who assisted in her kidnapping and rape – claiming she is still a threat to the community.

The child safety activist has recalled some of the horrors she experienced as a 14-year-old when she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by Barzee’s then-husband, street preacher Brian David Mitchell.

Elizabeth Smart speaks on stage at the 43nd Annual Gracie Awards in May   Woman who helped snatch Utah teen in 2002 released from prison skynews elizabeth smart abduction 4426622
Elizabeth Smart speaks on stage at the 43nd Annual Gracie Awards in May

He entered the house through an open kitchen window and snatched her at knifepoint before taking her to a camp in the woods with Barzee where he repeatedly raped her.

Ms Smart said last week that Barzee saw her as a slave during the nine months she was held by the couple, and encouraged Mitchell to rape her.

“So do I believe she’s dangerous? Yes,” she said.

Ms Smart, who is a married mother-of-two, shared a childhood picture of herself on Instagram over the weekend and wrote that she was fearful of Barzee in the caption.

Brian David Mitchell, then 49, on a court closed-circuit television monitor during a 2003 hearing  Woman who helped snatch Utah teen in 2002 released from prison skynews brian david mitchell 4426620
Brian David Mitchell appeared via video-link during a 2003 hearing

She said she found the news of Barzee’s release “greatly disturbing and incomprehensible,” adding: “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.”

Barzee was placed on the Utah sex offender registry as a condition of her release.

Her lawyer, Scott Williams, said she had been diagnosed with several mental illnesses – but he is not concerned about her being a danger to the community.

She will be under federal supervision for five years and could return to prison if she violates terms that include mental health treatment and an order against contacting Ms Smart and her family.

Ms Smart was found while walking with Barzee and Mitchell on a street in suburban Sandy by people who recognised the abductors from media reports.

Mitchell, who claimed to be a religious preacher, is serving a life sentence after being convicted of kidnapping and raping Ms Smart.

Barzee, who was treated at Utah State Hospital for about five years following her arrest, testified in 2010 against Mitchell and was given a plea deal on state and federal charges.

She was transferred to the Utah prison in 2016 after finishing a federal sentence in Texas.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole initially set a 2024 release date after Barzee decided against attending her own parole hearing in June.

Her lawyer questioned then whether the term included time Barzee had served in a federal prison. The board decided last week she had served her sentence.

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