SANDY, UT — Elizabeth Smart has reacted to the release of Wanda Barzee more than five years earlier than expected by calling the decision by the Utah parole board “incomprehensible.”
Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping Smart in 2002 and helping her husband, David Mitchell, keep her captive for nine months.
The 72-year-old will be released on September 19 after the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole determined it had miscalculated the time she was required to serve in prison, board spokesman Greg Johnson said. Barzee has been in custody for a total of 15 years from the time she was arrested in March 2003.
Smart was just 14 years old when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom through an open window. She was eventually rescued after witnesses saw her walking with Barzee and Mitchell on a street in the suburb of Sandy, Utah.
Smart, who is now married with two children and a child safety advocate, released a statement. It read:
“I was surprised and disappointed to learn of the pending release of Wanda Barzee. It is incomprehensible how someone who has not cooperated with her mental health evaluations or risk assessments and someone who did not show up to her own parole hearing can be released into our community. I am trying to understand how and why this is happening and exploring possible options. I plan to speak publicly in the coming days once I have a better understanding. 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.”
The board said at a previous hearing that Barzee would be released in January 2024. She was transferred to the Utah state prison in April 2016 after finishing a federal sentence in Texas.
The board said that Barzee had refused to take a psychological exam, and it has also been reported that she suffers from various mental illnesses.
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I’ve been meaning to post this all week, I will be the first to admit I have no business telling anyone how to parent their child, I’m still trying to figure that one out for myself. But I want to encourage every parent to sit down with their child and talk to them about sexual abuse and awareness. I know it’s a scary topic to bring up but as it’s the beginning of a new school year this really should be a priority. New classrooms, teachers, friends, schools, people, and places are a big part of this time of year and the best thing we can do is try to prepare and prevent sexual abuse from ever happening. Some points that should be covered are: Making sure they know they are loved unconditionally, no matter what You will always have their corner It doesn’t matter who threatens, scares, or makes them feel uncomfortable that behavior is unacceptable and they need to tell you You will always believe them (I know it sounds silly but the amount of survivors who I have spoken to have been scared to speak up because they think no one will believe them is staggering, probably one of the most common reasons why young survivors don’t speak up) “No” is a great answer And as much as we talk about being polite and kind there are times when it is completely acceptable to yell, bite, scream, do what ever they have to to protect themselves It is obviously up to you how detailed you are in these conversations, and making them age appropriate. But in a world where unfortunately sexual violence and abuse is so prevalent and so easily silenced it is vital that we have these difficult conversations. #preparednotscared #endingsilence #prevention #preventioneducation #hardconversations #sexualabuse #sexualviolence #rape Totally off topic yes that big blue kitchen mitt is my harp covered, my kids think it’s a climbing toy
At the same hearing, her attorney Scott Williams asked for a recalculation of her sentence. The board later admitted that it had apparently failed to properly credit her time served in federal prison toward her total time served.
The Utah Board of Pardons wrote that it has “…granted Ms. Barzee 2,436 days of credit for time served (including jail and Utah State Hospital time from 03/18/2003 to 11/17/2009) of pre-sentence incarceration” and calculated that, after counting the time she has served in federal and state prison, she has finished her sentence.
On Tuesday, Williams attested that he is not concerned about his client being a danger to the community. Barzee will be under federal supervision for five years.
David Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of kidnapping and raping Smart.
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Read more: Yahoo
Main photo: Elizabeth Smart [Wikimedia Commons]