Woman Who Helped Kidnap Elizabeth Smart Released From Prison

A woman who was convicted for her role in the kidnapping of then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was released from prison early Wednesday morning. 

The Utah Department of Corrections said Wanda Barzee, 72, was released from Utah State prison around 8 a.m. local time. 

Barzee along with her then-husband, Brian David Mitchell, a street pastor, was found guilty of kidnapping Smart at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002. They held the 14-year-old for nine months, until she was spotted walking the streets of a suburb near Salt Lake City. 

The couple was arrested and charged with Smart's kidnapping. According to Smart, she was repeatedly sexually attacked by Mitchell while Barzee would sit next to Smart and "encourage her husband to continue to rape me," Smart said at a press conference last week. 

Just moments after Barzee was released, Smart posted on Instagram, thanking her supporters, saying she was determined to continue living her life despite seeing her captor go free. 

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.

Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence after he was convicted of kidnapping and raping Smart. As part of her plea deal, Barzee was convicted of state and federal crimes and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for her role in the abduction. 

After a review of Barzee's time served, the parole board said they discovered part of her time in federal prison should count toward her state sentence, making her eligible for release this year instead of 2024. 

"On September 19, Ms. Barzee will have spent 15 years in custody, which is the maximum amount of time allowed by her state conviction and sentence," Greg Johnson of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole said earlier. "Ms. Barzee cannot legally be held in the Utah State prison beyond the length of her sentence.”

As part of Barzee's release, the 72-year-old will be barred from contacting Smart or her family, and attend mental health treatment. She will also have to register as a sex offender.

Violating those conditions could result in Barzee returning to prison. 

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