Elizabeth Smart's Paroled Captor Moves To Home Steps Away From Elementary School

Registered sex offender Wanda Barzee was released from prison years earlier than previously anticipated for her role in the infamous Utah kidnapping.

January 03, 2019
Wanda Barzee [Utah State Prison]

Wanda Barzee [Utah State Prison]

Wanda Barzee [Utah State Prison]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Utah’s sex-offender registry shows one of Elizabeth Smart’s captors has moved blocks away from an elementary school filled with students from kindergarten through fifth grade after she was released from prison and placed on parole in September.

Wanda Barzee, 73, now lives in a residence roughly a seven-minute walk from Parkview Elementary School, the Associated Press reported.

“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,” Smart, now a 31-year-old mom of three and a child safety advocate, said in a statement of the revelation.

Some of Barzee’s new neighbors also expressed dismay at learning they were living near the paroled sex offender, who refused to work with mental-health professionals while she was locked up for her role in Smart’s abduction.

“Knowing that someone like that is that close to my kids and my grandkids — I’m not comfortable with it at all,” Utahna Sorenson told KSL-TV.

Ellis Colvin attended elementary school with Smart and has children enrolled in Parkview. She questioned: “How do we as a community know that the same thoughts and feelings aren’t running through [Barzee’s] head?”

In 2010, a judge sentenced Barzee to 15 years behind bars after she pleaded guilty for helping her street preacher husband, Brian David Mitchell, kidnap Smart at knifepoint from her home in June 2002 when she was 14. Mitchell and Barzee then held Smart captive over a nine-month period in makeshift camps around the Salt Lake City area.

“When he kidnapped me and was taking me up into the mountains, I remember thinking, ‘This is it, he's just going to rape and kill me,’” Smart told CBS News This Morning of the chilling experience. “And then, at one point, he did end up telling me that he had a wife [Barzee] that was waiting.… That moment did give me a little bit of comfort.… But as soon as I saw her, I did not have that hope anymore.”

Smart called Mitchell’s sidekick an “evil and twisted” woman who had a dark “feeling that kind of radiated from her.”

Mitchell told the teenager she was now his wife and demanded she consummate their “marriage.” Smart said he raped her “every day after that, multiple times a day” — while Barzee was present.

Smart was finally rescued when police officers stopped Mitchell, Barzee, and a disguised and brainwashed Smart as they walked through a town 18 miles from her home following a Walmart shoplifting spree. One cop pulled the frightened teen aside and asked if she was Elizabeth Smart. He told her that her family loved and missed her.

“For a moment, my world seemed to absolutely stop,” Smart recalled in her book My Story. “I looked at him. He looked at me. I felt calm. I felt assured. Months of fear and pain seemed to melt before the sun. I felt a sweet assurance.”

But in an unsettling decision that Smart has called “incomprehensible,” the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole granted Barzee her freedom in September — years earlier than previously anticipated — after it emerged officials miscalculated uncredited time served on her sentence.

The conditions of Barzee’s release require she remain under federal supervision for five years, but Smart believes the senior citizen is “still a danger.”

“I know just how bad she really can be,” she has said. “I don't know all the conditions of her release, but I have been reassured multiple times that she will be kept a very close eye on. And as soon as she messes up, which I've been reassured that she will, she will be taken back to federal prison for the duration of the five years.”

Mitchell, 65, is serving life behind bars.

Next Up

Man Arrested After Ring Camera Captures Attempted Abduction Of 6-Year-Old Girl

33-year-old Deric McPherson was arrested on Aug. 23, 2022 after grabbing a 6-year-old girl and attempting to pull her down the sidewalk with him.

Amber Alert Canceled After Abducted 13-Year-Old Girl Escapes Kidnapper

A 13-year-old girl was kidnapped from her home in Reading, Pennsylvania on Aug. 31, 2022. Later that day, the girl was found over a hundred miles away.

Kidnapping Victim Helps Orchestrate Her Own Rescue By Holding Up Sign Saying 'Help Me'

A 13-year-old girl was rescued after holding up a sign from the window of Steven Robert Sablan’s car in a Long Beach, California parking lot.

Toddler Who Was Kidnapped By Her Babysitter Reunited With Family Over Five Decades Later

On Aug. 23, 1971, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by her babysitter in Fort Worth, Texas. 51 years later, DNA testing helped her family find her.

Kayla Unbehaun, Missing Since 2017, Found Safe In Asheville

Kayla Unbehaun was abducted from Illinois by her biological mother, Heather Unbehaun, on Independence Day 2017. 6 years later, she was found safe in North Carolina.

Two Kidnapped Children Found Nearly One Year Later In Florida Supermarket

In February 2023, a routine vehicle tag check near a Winn-Dixie supermarket helped police locate the alleged kidnapper, 36-year-old Kristi Nicole Gilley, inside the store with the two children.

Family Still Looking For Answers In 1965 Disappearance Of Elizabeth Gill

Authorities said a vehicle previously purchased in Lake Orion, Michigan is linked to this Cape Girardeau, Missouri mystery. If you have any information on this missing mystery, please contact the Cape Girardeau Police Department directly: 573-335-6621.

Where Is Amanda Nicole Eileen Campbell? The 4-Year-Old’s Bike Was Found But She Never Was

Authorities still don’t know what happened to a 4-year-old California girl who disappeared in 1991.

5 Things You Need To Know About Susan Powell

In 2009, mother-of-two Susan Powell disappeared without a trace in West Valley City, Utah. Then in 2012, her husband Josh killed himself and their two sons after custody of the children was granted to Susan's parents.