Elizabeth Smart said she is urging authorities to reconsider the planned release of one of her kidnappers, calling Wanda Barzee a danger to her and the community. AP
(Photo: Utah Department of Corrections via AP)
A registered sex offender who helped kidnap a teenage Elizabeth Smart is now living near a Utah elementary school after her release from prison in September.
Wanda Barzee, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping Smart and helping keep her captive for nine months while Smart was raped, was released from prison five years earlier than expected and initially placed in an halfway house. Smart called the move "incomprehensible" at the time. Barzee, 73, then moved to an apartment near Parkview Elementary School that teaches pre-kindergarten students through fifth grade.
"Every possible caution and protection should be taken when it comes to protecting our children," Smart told the Associated Press. "Whether a person is deemed a current threat or if they have a history of child abuse, neglect, sexual violence, etc., prudent measures should be taken, including housing them as far away as possible from schools, families and community centers."
Barzee’s husband, Brian David Mitchell, broke into Smart’s bedroom and abducted her at knifepoint in 2002. Smart was 14 years old. Mitchell, who was sentenced to life in prison, repeatedly raped and abused Smart. Smart wrote of how Barzee treated her like a slave, and the couple denied her food and water for days at a time, as detailed in Smart’s memoir "My Story."
Smart was spotted on a street and rescued by police in 2003. Smart, who is a child safety advocate, is now 31 and married with three young children.
Federal probation officers didn’t immediately comment about Barzee’s living situation. In Utah, registered sex offenders aren’t allowed on school grounds.