In 2002, Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom in Utah in the middle of a night by a stranger at knife-point. The girl was terrified and feared for her life.
For the next nine months, she would come to know the following well:
Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, teamed up to make her life a living hell. The trio camped in the woods, and Smart experienced unbearable heat, unsanitary living conditions, boring days and long monologues of prophetizing by “Immanuel.” The teen was chained inside the tent and raped almost daily.
When pushed enough by his wife, Mitchell would bring the two females into town to scavenge for and steal food. They wore veils, and Elizabeth was too frightened to attempt to flee. Mitchell repeatedly warned her that he would kill her entire family if she attempted to escape. Smart was happy to be getting out of the camp and hopeful that someone would recognize her and report it to the authorities. However, she always returned to camp somewhat dispirited. Mostly, the people they saw treated them with repugnance and disgust since they were unclean and malodorous.
Then, Mitchell got spooked by a cop in the local library who wanted Elizabeth to remove her veil. The captor sited religious obligation as a reason for refusal. Eventually, the police officer walked away, and Mitchell gloated about the incident later at the camp. So, they moved to California after finding enough money for bus tickets. They stayed for six months and spent their time looking for food and shelter. An extreme weather event was interpreted by Mitchell as a sign that they needed to move again. Elizabeth claimed that God had told her that they should return to Salt Lake City. Mitchell, amazingly enough, decided that she was correct.
Mitchell, Wanda and Elizabeth alternately walked and hitchhiked the 736 miles between the cities. The trek was physically exhausting. They walked with heavy packs in the blistering sun, often going a day without food or water. Eventually, the surroundings became familiar. When they were 20 minutes from her house, the teen became hopeful. This hope was dashed to the crushing dread that they were returning to the high camp in the mountains behind Elizabeth’s house. As they were walking towards the mountains, a cop car spotted them. More cars quickly surrounded them, and the trio was questioned separately.
My Story by Elizabeth Smart, 2013
This is a bizarre story of the kidnapping and prolonged torture and repeated rape of a 14-year-old girl. Elizabeth Smart’s resilience and strength inspire me.