The woman who helped kidnap then-teenager Elizabeth Smart in 2002 has been granted parole in a surprise reversal by the Utah Board of Pardons.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the parole board initially denied kidnapper Wanda Barzee’s early parole in July. Yet, the board reversed its decision on Tuesday and scheduled Barzee’s release for September 19.
Barzee conspired with her husband, Brian David Mitchell, who kidnapped Smart from her Salt Lake City home in 2002. Mitchell held Smart, then 14, at knifepoint in her own bedroom and forced her out of her home in the middle of the night. The couple kept Smart for nine months until authorities found her walking down a street in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City just 18 miles from her family’s residence. Smart was walking alongside Barzee and Mitchell when police stopped them.
BREAKING: Woman who helped kidnap Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart to be freed from prison in surprise move. https://t.co/GL7pydTqAm
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 11, 2018
Shortly after taking Smart from her home, Mitchell led her into a wooded area close by and forced to go through a “marriage” with him, claiming her to be his new wife. According to Smart, Mitchell forced her through woods while she wore only her pajamas, then raped her after the mock marriage ceremony. He then shackled her to a wire between two trees while Barzee fully cooperated and was complicit in the kidnapping.
For the next nine months, Smart was raped almost daily by Mitchell. During his trial, Smart told the jury that Mitchell treated her “like an animal,” and forced her to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. He also forced her to watch him have sex with Barzee. Further, he often denied her food and water as a means to control her and have Smart completely dependent upon him.
In 2011, Mitchell received life in prison while Barzee received 15 years in federal prison, in addition to a concurrent sentence of to one to 15 years in state prison. The parole board stated Barzee completed her sentence.
“Upon further review and advice from legal counsel, the board must count time spent in federal custody toward Ms. Barzee’s state sentence,” director of administrative services, Greg Johnson, wrote.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) September 11, 2018
Smart, who said she was “surprised and disappointed” to learn of Barzee’s release.
“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 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 story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Wanda Barzee via AP/Utah State Prison]