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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Life in Prison for Elizabeth Smart’s Abductor

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - The man who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart and held her captive for 9 months was sentenced Wednesday to two life sentences in prison without possibility of parole. "I don't have very much to say to you," Smart told her rapist and abductor, street preacher Brian David Mitchell, who sang at his sentencing hearing.

Mitchell kidnapped Smart, then a teen-ager, at knifepoint in 2002, and held her for 9 months at makeshift camps in the mountains above Salt Lake City and in Southern California with his wife, Wanda Barzee. They plied her with alcohol, tied her to trees, raped her and forced her to watch them have sex.

Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet, said Smart was to be his plural wife. He tried, but failed, to kidnap another child bride in California.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball sentenced Mitchell Wednesday afternoon before a full courtroom at about 3:30 p.m., after remarks by prosecutors Robert Steele and Felice Viti, defense attorney Parker Douglas, and Elizabeth Smart and her father, Ed.

Elizabeth, now 23, addressed Mitchell directly and faced him from the center of the courtroom.

"I don't have very much to say to you," she said.

"I know exactly what you did. I know that you know what you did was wrong. You did it with a full knowledge. I also want you to know that I have a wonderful life now, that no matter what you do, it will not affect me again. You took away 9 months of my life that can never be returned, but in this life or next, you will have to be held responsible for those actions, and I hope you are ready for when that time comes."

Smart's father preceded her and told Mitchell, "Your perversion and exploitation of religion is not a defense. It is disgusting, and it is an abuse that anyone should despise. You put Elizabeth through 9 months of psychological hell. ... I hope at some point in your life you are able to repent of it."

Prosecutor Viti said that the mentally competent Mitchell was "effective in stalling his legal proceedings for 7 years," until Wednesday's sentencing.

Elizabeth's "world changed, changed suddenly, violently and without warning" Viti said. "The boogeyman under the bed and the monster in the closet became real.

"For 9 months Ms. Smart endured and survived. ... Those 9 months can never be recovered and what she lost can never be replaced. ... We are confident that a life sentence is where law and justice intersect."

Kimball gave Mitchell an opportunity to speak, but the man with a long beard and flowing hair, eyes closed, quietly sang church hymns, as he's done throughout the proceedings.

Judge Kimball said: "This is an unusually heinous and degrading set of facts and circumstances that lasted for 9 months, and it's certainly even horribly unusual for this kind of crime.

"We know the facts here, and this is a horrible crime, and a life sentence does reflect the seriousness."

Kimball handed down two life sentences on Missing Children's Day.

Mitchell was found guilty in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex.

Mitchell has 10 days to appeal. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will assign him a location outside of Utah, as the state has no federal prison. He will not be eligible for parole.

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