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Smart urges state to reconsider kidnapper release

Elizabeth Smart speaks during a news conference while her father Ed Smart looks on 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)

SALT LAKE CITY — Elizabeth Smart, who survived a months-long ordeal after being kidnapped by a self-proclaimed prophet and his wife, is pleading for the state of Utah to reverse the decision to release one of her kidnappers.

It was only Tuesday the public learned one of her captors, Wanda Barzee, would be released from prison Wednesday September 19 after 15 years in custody. During a news conference Thursday on the steps of the Utah state capitol, Smart said she learned of the announced release just before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole made that decision public.

While she urged authorities to reverse the decision, she also conceded there is no legal recourse for her to pursue. Smart says Barzee, 72, should still be considered “dangerous.”

“Months ago, I was on my way to a parole hearing and I was told she wouldn’t be let out until 2024, so, yes, it was a very big shock,” Smart said. “I would urge the powers that be and anyone who works under them to really strongly reconsider this situation, look at all the facts, look at her mental status and see if they really, honestly, truly feel like she is no longer a threat.”

Smart was 14 when she was abducted at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom. She was found alive 9 months later, in March 2003, as she walked along State Street in Sandy with her captors, Barzee and Brian David Mitchell. During the press conference Smart recalled the horrors she endured after being kidnapped.

“She is a woman who had six children yet could co-conspire to kidnap a 14-year-old girl, and not only sit next to her while being raped but encourage her husband to continue to rape me,” Smart said. “So do I believe she’s dangerous? Yes.”

Barzee was convicted of both state and federal crimes and authorities transferred her to Utah after serving a federal sentence in a Texas prison. She will be under federal supervision for five years after her release.

During Mitchell’s trial, she testified she was threatened constantly and raped repeatedly during those months. He is serving a life sentence after being convicted of kidnapping and raping Smart.