Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

United States woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart, 14, is being freed

United States woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart, 14, is being freed

Wanda Barzee, the woman convicted for her role in Smart's kidnapping more than 16 years ago, will be released from a Utah prison next week after a surprise reversal by the state's parole board.

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. Her sentence was due to expire one year later, in 2024.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the parole board initially denied kidnapper Wanda Barzee's early parole in July. The surprise move announced Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, comes after authorities determined they had miscalculated the time Barzee previously served in federal custody.

But in a decision released Tuesday, the board reversed their ruling and ordered instead Barzee be released September 19. Elizabeth told Fox News she'll "speak publicly" about Wanda's release after she has "a better understanding" of the situation, then added, "I appreciate the support, love and concern that has already been expressed and will work diligently to address the issue of Barzee's release as well as to ensure changes are made moving forward to ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future".

On July 2, the Board issued a decision that said the time spent in federal custody did not count toward the state sentence and the end of Barzee's state sentence was January 29, 2024.

Smart, now 30, didn't immediately have comment. "I am trying to understand how and why this is happened and exploring possible options".

The Elizabeth Smart kidnapping attracted national media attention in 2002 and helped eventually spur tougher laws against child predators in the U.S.

Barzee, now 72, pleaded guilty in 2009 to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor in connection with Smart's abduction. She began serving her federal sentence that same day.

Smart, then 14 years old, was kidnapped at knifepoint by Brian Mitchell in the early hours of June 5, 2002 at her home in the Federal Heights neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. During the nine months of her captivity, she was held captive in Utah and California.

The Utah court sentenced Barzee on May 21, 2010 to a term of 1-15 years in the Utah State Prison for aggravated kidnapping as a second-degree felony. He is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Arizona.

Smart's father, Ed Smart, said Tuesday that their family was still processing the news. She was finally rescued on March 12, 2003 while on a street in Sandy, Utah by police officers acting on the assistance of two witnesses who recognized her abductors.

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