It was a warm summer day when Elizabeth Smart, then 14 years old, was abducted from her home in Utah. Her kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, had been stalking her for months and had even been caught by her father trying to break into the family’s home on two occasions. But on that fateful day in June 2002, Mitchell was able to snatch Elizabeth from her bedroom in the middle of the night, and she would not be seen again for nine months.
During that time, Mitchell held Elizabeth captive, raping her daily and brainwashing her into thinking that he was a prophet of God. He also forced her to wear a veil and walk behind him whenever they were in public. In March 2003, Elizabeth was finally able to escape when she was recognized by two passersby in Sandy, Utah. She had been spotted with Mitchell just a few weeks earlier, but it wasn’t until she was seen with him again that someone recognized her and called the police.
Elizabeth’s story is one of enduring strength and courage. But it is also a story of a man who kidnapped and tortured his own wife for three years.
In 2009, Wanda Eileen Barzee, Mitchell’s wife, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her role in the kidnapping. She had pleaded guilty to kidnapping and obstruction of justice charges in exchange for her testimony against her husband.
Barzee, who is now 72 years old, will be eligible for release from prison in 2024. But Elizabeth, who is now 27 years old, has said that she does not believe her former captor’s wife should be freed.
“I believe that she is just as culpable as he was,” Elizabeth said of Barzee in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer. “And I don’t think that anyone who would do what she did, is fit to walk outside of a prison ever again.”
Elizabeth has also said that she does not believe Barzee is truly remorseful for her role in the kidnapping.
“She never once showed any sign of remorse, not even after pleading guilty,” Elizabeth said. “She would smirk during the trial, and she would look over at me, and just kind of give me this evil grin.”
Barzee’s attorneys have said that she is remorseful and that she suffers from mental illness. They have also said that she was under the control of her husband and that she was not able to leave him.
Elizabeth has said that she does not believe Barzee was a victim, but rather someone who chose to be with Mitchell and help him carry out his crimes.
“She could have walked away at any time,” Elizabeth said. “She could have taken me and gone to the police and said, ‘This is what’s happening.’ But she didn’t.”
Elizabeth has said that she forgives Barzee and Mitchell for what they did to her, but she does not believe that they should ever be free.
“I think that the best thing would be for her to spend the rest of her life in prison,” Elizabeth said of Barzee. “I don’t think she should be out in society. I don’t think she should be around other people.”