Elizabeth Smart urges state to reconsider Wanda Barzee’s release

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Elizabeth Smart addressed the media Thursday said one of her kidnappers, who is due to be released from prison next week, remains a threat to her and others.

The Utah State Board of Pardons announced Wanda Barzee would be released from prison on September 19.

Barzee and her husband Brian David Mitchell were arrested for kidnapping Smart from her Salt Lake City home in June of 2002. 

In 2009, a federal judge sentenced Barzee to 15 years in prison, but she was credited seven years for time served. In May of 2010, she was sentenced for 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison by the state for her role in kidnapping Smart.

Barzee came to Utah State Prison on April 8, 2016, after completing her federal prison term.

At that point, her sentence was supposed to end on January 29, 2024, but based on further review the board said it had to count the time in federal prison as a credit to the Utah sentence. That meant Barzee’s sentence would end nearly six years earlier than expected.

Smart who said she learned about Barzee’s release shortly before the media, said it came as a “very big shock.” 

At her news conference on Thursday, she urged the state to “strongly reconsider” the situation because she still believes Barzee is a threat.

“I would also appeal to her family that they start taking steps to have her civilly committed,” said Smart. 

Watch Smart’s entire news conference

“I now know what it’s like or have some idea what it’s like for all of those thousands of victims who never have the chance to have their case prosecuted, who never get their chance at justice. I think it’s given greater compassion towards them and a greater drive to hopefully make some changes,” she added.

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole released a statement following Smart’s news conference: 

“The Board has heard concerns and requests to reconsider releasing Wanda Barzee.  This is not an early release or a discretionary release. 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.  Ms. Barzee cannot legally be held in the Utah State prison beyond the length of her sentence. Upon release, she will be supervised by federal authorities.” 

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