Where Is Wanda Barzee In 2017? Elizabeth Smart's Kidnapper Has A Release Date On The Horizon
Back in 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah and held for nine months against her will by convicted kidnappers Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Now, 15 years later, she'll recount her story for Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography, one in a pair of A&E specials rehashing the kidnapping. But as Smart retraces the traumatic experience on-screen, you might wonder what's become of her abductors. So, where is one of Elizabeth Smart's kidnappers Wanda Barzee now?
After Smart was rescued, Barzee was charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated burglary, as reported by CNN. According to the outlet, she was found incompetent to stand trial in 2004, and was subsequently sent to the Utah State Hospital for further review. Five years later, she pled guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor, and in 2010, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Per KSL, she then pleaded guilty in state court to the 2002 attempted kidnapping of Smart's then-14-year-old cousin, Olivia Wright, as part of a larger plea deal. Mitchell, Barzee's husband, was also initially deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, but was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison.
While in court, Barzee apologized to the Smart family for her role in the kidnapping, and said that she understood the weight of what she had done. "I know the gravity of my crimes and how serious they are," Barzee said at the time, according to CBS. "I'm just so sorry again for all the pain and suffering I caused upon the Smart family." Later, while testifying in Mitchell's case, she claimed that he'd allegedly manipulated her into participating in the crimes, and she allegedly had felt pressured to be obedient to him, Utah's Deseret News reported.
Barzee's six children, however, have painted a quite different picture. Per ABC, LouRee Gayler, her daughter, alleged to Oprah Winfrey in 2010 that Barzee had once served her pet rabbit for dinner (During Mitchell's trial, Barzee claimed it had been Mitchell who cooked the rabbit). In the same interview, Gaylor's sister, identified only as Andrea, called Barzee a "monster." And Barzee's son, Derrick Thompson, who wrote a book about his childhood titled Raised By Wolves, alleged that he would stay in the backyard, rather than the house, in order to escape his mother. Barzee's children told Winfrey that they'd all either left home or been thrown out by the time they were 13 or 14.
In 2016, Fox 13 reported that Barzee had finished serving her federal prison sentence in Forth Worth, Texas, as she was given credit for the nearly seven years she'd already spent in Utah's state mental hospital. She was then transferred to the Utah State Prison to serve her state sentence, where she remains. According to the outlet, she has already been denied parole once, and has a re-hearing scheduled for 2018. Her sentence expires in 2024, when she will be roughly 78, but it's possible the state parole board will decide to keep her in prison until then.
Smart, meanwhile, has moved forward from the kidnapping and become an inspirational speaker, author, and advocate. In 2011, she launched the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help locate missing children and put an end to the sex trafficking of minors, and has worked to promote legislation aimed at preventing child abductions like the National AMBER alert and the Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act. In 2013, she released her bestselling memoir, My Story, and collaborated with the Department of Justice on a survivor's guide for abducted minors. She's been married since 2012 and has two children.
Smart has yet to speak publicly about Barzee's eventual release, but perhaps she'll address it when Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography airs Nov. 12 and 13.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.