Elizabeth Smart Kidnapper Unexpectedly Being Released

Smart's father says family had been told Wanda Barzee wouldn't be freed for years
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2018 1:02 PM CDT
Updated Sep 11, 2018 2:18 PM CDT
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This 2016 photo provided by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office shows Wanda Barzee.   (Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
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(Newser) – The woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart in 2002 and held her in captivity for nine months will be freed next Wednesday following a surprise announcement from the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. The somewhat confusing development is a technical one: The Salt Lake Tribune reports the board denied Wanda Barzee an early release in July, but an official now says that "upon further review and advice from legal counsel, the board must count time spent in federal custody toward Ms. Barzee's state sentence." Barzee, 72, served eight years at a federal prison in Texas; the state charge was related to a separate plot to kidnap Smart's cousin in the weeks after Barzee and husband Brian David Mitchell took Smart.

She pleaded guilty to that charge and was sentenced to one to 15 years. Smart's father expressed surprise. "We were told she was getting out in 2022." (Fox13, however, reports her release will come five years before it was expected she would be eligible for parole, which would have been 2023.) Fox News has strong words from Smart herself, via a statement: "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. I am trying to understand how and why this is happened and exploring possible options." Fox News adds that Mitchell is serving two life sentences.

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