One of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnappers will be released soon from a Utah prison more than five years earlier than previously expected.
Wanda Barzee, 72, will be freed Sept. 19, according to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
“I was surprised and disappointed to learn of the pending release of Wanda Barzee,” Smart wrote in a statement, KUTV-TV reported. “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.”
Barzee’s sentence had originally been scheduled to end Jan. 29, 2024, but that determination didn’t include time served in a federal prison, spokesman Greg Johnson told TheBlaze in a written statement.
“This is not an early release,” Johnson said. “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.”
Conditions to Barzee’s parole include five years of supervised release, and she is also required to take prescribed mental health medications, according to court documents acquired by TheBlaze.
What’s the back story?
Barzee helped her husband Brian David Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet, kidnap Smart at gunpoint from the bedroom of her Salt Lake City, Utah, home in the early morning hours of June 5, 2002. Smart was 14 at the time.
The girl was rescued by police who discovered her walking down a street with her captors in Sandy, Utah, on March 12, 2003. She was about 18 miles from her home. Barzee and Mitchell were arrested for the alleged kidnapping of a minor.
In 2009, Smart testified that she was forced to “marry” Mitchell and was raped daily. She said her captors had threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.
Mitchell is serving life in prison.
Why did the parole board change Barzee’s release date?
In June, Barzee’s attorney argued that her time served in federal prison should have run concurrently with her state sentence.
“Based on further review and advice from legal counsel, the Board must count the time in federal prison as credit to the Utah sentence and therefore Ms. Barzee’s sentence ends on September 19, 2018,” Johnson wrote.
Barzee’s time served includes 2,436 days served in jail and the Utah State Hospital from March 18, 2003, to Nov. 17, 2009.
She was sentenced on May 21, 2010, to spend up to 15 years in prison for aggravated kidnapping.
What else did Smart say?
Smart, 30, said she will speak publicly about Barzee’s release in the coming days.
“I am trying to understand how and why this is happening and exploring possible options,” Smart said in a statement, according to KUTV. “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.”