True Crime History: March 12, 2003

Elizabeth Smart returns to her family.

On June 5, 2002, Elizabeth Smart was taken from her home in the middle of the night when she was only 14 years old. Brian David Mitchell, who had briefly worked for the Smarts, entered the girl’s room through a hole he cut in her window screen. He then led her on a three mile hike to a makeshift campsite he shared with his wife Wanda Barzee. Smart’s younger sister, Mary Katherine, had witnessed the kidnapping, but was too frightened to tell anyone until two hours later because she believed Mitchell may return.

Mitchell sexually assaulted Smart for the first time that same night which, along with potential Stockholm syndrome, contributed to Smart not escaping, despite having multiple opportunities throughout her captivity. The criminal couple moved around with Smart, from Salt Lake to California and back, allowing the girl to appear in public while wearing a wig, robe, and veil.

Upon their return to Utah, March 12, 2003, Smart was recognized and police informed. When police caught up with them, Smart did not willingly admit to being the missing girl. The three were still taken into custody, and Smart returned to her family that day.

Mitchell and Barzee received burglary, kidnapping, and sexual assault charges for what they did to Elizabeth Smart. Mitchell was declared mentally unfit to stand trial multiple times until finally found competent in 2010. Barzee received  15 years for the kidnapping 2009, and Mitchell received life imprisonment in 2011.