CRIME

OPINION: With Wanda Barzee’s release, don’t forget Elizabeth Smart

Sep 19, 2018, 3:00 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2018, 4:02 pm
Elizabeth Smart during a press conference in Salt Lake City on April 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Bowme...
Elizabeth Smart during a press conference in Salt Lake City on April 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

OPINION

DRAPER — Wanda Barzee was released from prison today, 15 years after being locked up for her role in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

Nobody is resting easy tonight. When Elizabeth Smart was dragged out of her bedroom at knifepoint, it captivated the nation. We watched every second of the story, from her capture to the search to her miraculous rescue.

I think that’s why we all have such strong feelings about this story. A lot of horrible things happen, but this one was a part of our lives. We want answers.

There are going to be a lot of articles about this story. There will be people talking about whether Barzee got off too easily, or whether we’re doing enough to keep her from hurting someone again.

But in all the voices that are going to be chiming in on this one, there’s one we really need to listen to. We need to listen to the woman who knows Wanda Barzee better than anyone. And that’s Elizabeth Smart.

Elizabeth Smart doesn’t feel safe

A photo taken on March 13, 2003 of Elizabeth Smart with her father Edward and mother Lois after she had reunited with her family. (Photo: Tom Smart, Deseret News, File)

The nightmare of nightmares for a parent is to have a child stolen. The Smart family has lived through that. They’ve seen their child get pulled out of her own bed at knifepoint, dragged off and repeatedly abused. They’ve lived through the worst horror imaginable, and the miracle of seeing their child come home, safe again.

This is something that truly will never leave Elizabeth Smart’s life. Victims who go through this kind of trauma have to live through it again and again. But on a day like today, when the woman who tortured her is walking free, that trauma is unimaginable.

Elizabeth Smart is an incredible young woman. I have never seen a woman like her before: a victim who has lived through such a horrific experience, but who has turned into an opportunity to become such a great champion for children everywhere.

She is one of the bravest women alive. But she’s telling us, as clearly and as plainly as she can, that she doesn’t feel safe:

View this post on Instagram

The past few days could certainly be described as shocking. Only a couple months ago I was informed one of my captors, Wanda Barzee, would not be released until 2024. Now she will be released in less than a week. I find this news greatly disturbing and incomprehensible. In my efforts to learn more it seems there are no viable legal options open to me at this time. So it is now that I ask those that have the power, and her family to start proceedings to have her be civilly committed. To my knowledge she has neither complied with medication or treatment and as some one who has experienced first hand just how depraved she truly is, I believe her to be a threat and a danger not just to myself but to the community, any vulnerable person. I am very concerned and precautions have been taken however I refuse to live in fear. I have spent the last 15 years rebuilding and moving forward with my life, having a family, and pursuing my goals. I lived in absolute fear and terror for nine months, no matter the outcome I will not do so again.

A post shared by Elizabeth Smart (@elizabeth_smart_official) on

She is only 30 years old. She’s a young woman, just starting a family of her own. She is the young mother to two children, and now she has to watch as this woman who tortured her for nine months walks free.

Wanda Barzee got off too easy

Wanda Barzee during her sentencing on May 21, 2010 in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Al Hartmann, Pool, File)

Wanda Barzee wasn’t just an innocent bystander. She was there for the whole nine months of Elizabeth Smart’s capture. She made sure she didn’t escape when Brian David Mitchell was away. She cheered him on while he abused her.

Wanda Barzee was guilty. Nobody questions that. But despite all the horrible things she did to that little girl, and while Brian David Mitchell was locked away for life, Barzee only got 15 years in prison.

She wasn’t let go because she was innocent or because she was less dangerous than Mitchell. We know that for a fact. We got the chance to speak to state prosecutor Kent Morgan and he told us exactly why Barzee was released so early:

“Because she plead guilty. And that’s part of our criminal justice system. If you’re going to fight it… you’re going to get a worse sentence.”

Elizabeth Smart during a news conference in Salt Lake City. Sept. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Yes, Wanda Barzee is going to be registered as a sex offender, and, yes, she is going to be under federal supervision for the next five years. But let’s be honest about what that really means.

Wanda Barzee is going to be checking in with a federal agent once each month. She’ll be the one responsible for that. There will be no ankle monitor checking where she goes.

Elizabeth Smart has told us who this woman is, and we need to listen. We need to make sure that there are people watching her and making sure she doesn’t do something like this again.

But to be honest, I don’t think any plea deal would have made me happy for this case. The only sentence Wanda Barzee should have gotten was the one she deserved: life behind bars.

Our coverage

Dave Noriega is the co-host of Dave & Dujanovic, heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

Listen on Google Play Music

Today’s Top Stories

Crime

A suspect is in custody Wednesday evening after University of Utah Police say two hidden cameras we...
Mark Jones

Hidden cameras found in restrooms in U of U Student Life Center, suspect in custody

University of Utah Police say a suspect has been arrested after two hidden cameras were found inside two different restrooms inside the Student Life Center.
22 hours ago
Salt Lake City Police took a 44-year-old man into custody on Wednesday in connection to the burglar...
Mark Jones

SLC Police arrest man for burglarizing two law offices

Salt Lake City Police say a 44-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in connection to burglarizing two downtown law offices last week.
22 hours ago
A former American Fork soccer coach is under arrest and facing six felony counts of child sexual ab...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Former American Fork soccer coach arrested on charges of child sexual abuse

The suspect arrested on charges of child sexual abuse was reportedly a soccer coach for the UC Strikers and Utah FC junior teams, between 2000 and 2014, according to American Fork Police.
22 hours ago
bomb...
Elizabeth Weiler

Man arrested in relation to Provo Towne Center Mall bomb threat

A Provo man was arrested after calling in a bomb threat to his former employer. The man was recently fired.
22 hours ago
Eli Mitchell, victim of fatal hit and run...
Mark Jones

Utah County man pleads guilty to death of West Jordan teenager

A Saratoga Springs man pleaded guilty Tuesday in Third District Court of automobile homicide in connection to the death of a 13-year-old West Jordan teenager last April.
2 days ago
homeless shelters and Homelessness in Utah...
Alejandro Lucero

Utah official says better coordination could help with homelessness

Homelessness continues to grow in big cities across the U.S., and Salt Lake City is not an enigma. Could focusing on mental health help curb the trend?
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
OPINION: With Wanda Barzee’s release, don’t forget Elizabeth Smart