‘I hope the state puts her in a mental hospital!’ Family of Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper won’t take her in, daughter reacts to ‘surprising’ prison release

Kidnapper Wanda Barzee apparently won’t be staying with family members upon her prison release this week, according to a relative.

Barzee, 72, has completed a 15-year sentence in connection with the 2002 kidnapping of then-teen Elizabeth Smart, but the abductor could now faces additional issues: finding a home upon her release. Her new residence will not be among family members, at least according to her niece, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“From what I know, no family can take her in or would take her in,” Barzee’s niece Tina Mace reportedly said. “I hope the state puts her in a mental hospital, and they never let her out.”

Rhonda McLeod, Barzee’s oldest daughter, is among one of the family members who refuse to take her in.

“Where else is she supposed to go besides prison or the Utah state mental hospital?” McLeaod wrote in an email reply, according to the outlet.

The announcement of Barzee’s prison release came as a shock not only to family members, but also to Smart, now 30, who had no idea her captor was scheduled for release until last week.


Elizabeth Smart arrives for a news conference Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Smart says it appears there is no viable, legal recourse she can take to stop the release of one of her kidnappers. Smart said at a news conference Thursday in Salt Lake City that she only found out about 72-year-old Wanda Barzee’s release shortly before the public did. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“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,” Smart said on Tuesday.

McLeod admitted she tried to have a relationship with Barzee when her mother was first incarcerated in 2003, the same mother who abandoned her McLeod a decade prior to her arrest. The reconnection, however, apparently didn’t last.

“I tried having a relationship with her when she was first incarcerated, but it has never worked out.”

McLeod is the oldest of Barzee’s six children. Barzee wrote her kids a letter in 1993, explaining that she was disowning them. Two years later, Barzee renounced her entire family and called them “materialistic” and “evil.” According to a 2009 interview with Barzee’s mother, Dana Corbett, the direct influence of Barzee’s second husband, Brian David Mitchell, resulted in the denouncement of her family.

Barzee’s youngest daughter, LouRee Gayler, said her mother abused her both emotionally and physically well before she abandoned her for Mitchell. She compared her to the character of Joan Crawford in the 1981 film, “Mommie Dearest.”

“She was definitely my ‘Mommie Dearest’ back in the day. My mother was sick for a long time.”

After leaving her family, Barzee lived the life of a transient nomad with Mitchell, a self-proclaimed “angel from Heaven,” who in reality was a local beggar in Salt Lake City who did odd jobs that eventually led him to working on the roof of Smart’s family home.

The couple lived in tepees and other makeshift homes, typically on the outskirts of town. They were living in a secluded wooded area in Salt Lake City when they hatched up a plan for Mitchell to kidnap and marry a young virgin who he intended to make his “second wife.”

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Barzee conspired with Mitchell, who kidnapped Smart from her family 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.

Mitchell then led Smart into a nearby secluded area 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.

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.

Wanda Barzee in 2003, shortly after her arrest [Photo via AP/Douglas C. Pizac, pool]
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, and despite public outrage and protest, will be released on September 19.

“I have tried through all these years to have a relationship with her,” McLeod said in 2009. “And now? “It is hard to put that much effort into someone your whole life,” she said. “It’s hard.”

[Feature Photo: Wanda Barzee/Utah State Prison]