One of the kidnappers responsible for snatching up a 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002 was released from prison on Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The Utah Department of Corrections said Wanda Barzee, 72, was released just after 8 a.m. from the Utah State Prison, FOX13 Salt Lake City reports. Barzee and her husband, Brian David Mitchell, kidnapped the then-teenaged Smart from her Salt Lake City home more than 16 years ago.
Barzee was freed after 15 years in custody because Utah authorities had miscalculated the amount of time she should spend in jail, and credited her for time served. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole had set a January 2024 release date after Barzee failed to attend her own parole hearing in June, but her attorney questioned whether that included time she had served in a federal prison. The board decided last week that she had served her sentence.
Barzee will be under federal supervision for five years. If she violates terms that include mental health treatment and an order not to contact Smart's family, she could go back to prison. A prison spokesperson did not provide details about Barzee's destination.
She was treated at the Utah State Hospital for about five years following her arrest. She testified in 2010 against Mitchell and was given a plea deal on state and federal charges. She was transferred to the Utah state prison in April 2016 after finishing a federal sentence in Texas.
Barzee's attorney, Scott Williams, has said his client has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, but he's not concerned about her being a danger to the community.
Mitchell, meanwhile, is serving a life sentence for his role in the kidnapping.
Smart said she's gone through a roller coaster of emotions since she found out last week that Barzee would be released five years earlier than expected. She said she feels concerned for herself and the community, as she remembers being mistreated during the nine months she was held captive by the couple.
"The feeling that kind of radiated from her, it just was dark. And it was evil," Smart said. "I just knew that she wasn't there to help me, that she wasn't there to protect me."
Smart said Barzee encouraged Mitchell to rape her, something that happened daily, she said.
"She was evil and twisted," Smart said.
In an interview with "CBS This Morning" that aired Tuesday, Smart said she believes Barzee remains a danger.
During that interview, Smart, now 30, revealed disturbing details of her nine-month ordeal.
“She would encourage him to rape me. She would sit right next to me. Like, the side of her body would be touching me,” Smart told CBS.
She also said that the couple also forced her to drink alcohol.
“I’d never touched alcohol in my life—that I ended up throwing up and then passing out in it. And both of them just let me lie there all night. And when I woke up the next morning, I mean, my face and my hair were completely crusted to the ground,” Smart said. “And they both laughed. She laughed. She laughed just as much as he did, if not more.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
[Photos: Getty Images, Salt Lake City County]
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