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Friday, August 01, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/14/2003

Happy but strange ending

The good news is she's home. After a dearth of good news anywhere these days, how extraordinary it is that a Salt Lake City teenager snatched from her home and missing for nine months returned alive and well Wednesday.

What happened to 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart from the time she disappeared June 5 to the time she was discovered walking with two adults down a suburban street has yet to be explained. The blue-eyed, blond-haired girl was found just 15 miles from her house.

She was in the company of Brian Mitchell, a 49-year-old drifter who had worked briefly at the Smart home, and a woman identified as Wanda Barzee. Wearing baggy clothes, and flowers in their hair, they looked like disheveled transients. All of them, including Elizabeth, wore wigs.

Rescuers initially thought she was an older woman wearing a scarf and sunglasses. But officers quickly realized they had located the young lady whom most Americans had given up for dead.

It has been reported that in the hours after the girl disappeared from her bedroom in the middle of the night, she could hear hundreds of searchers calling her name. She also apparently saw the blue ribbons tied around the neighborhood for her.

So why didn't she respond? She was found walking with her alleged abductor on a public road. Did she have other chances over the months to get away? Why didn't she try to escape or at least cry out for help when those opportunities arose? Was the adolescent from an affluent Mormon family brainwashed into believing this was a better life?

Authorities speculate she was an adolescent paralyzed with fear. Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse says investigators are convinced Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped and held against her will by a bizarre street preacher and his female companion. The couple is being held in the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping while prosecutors decide on what charges under what jurisdiction will be filed.

For now, Ed Smart says he hasn't asked his daughter about her nine-month ordeal. He and his wife and Elizabeth's five siblings just want to exult in the good news that reunited them with a child they thought they'd never see again.

For now, that should be enough.



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