The wife of a former street preacher who was convicted for her role in the kidnapping of then-14-year-old Elizabeth Smart is set to be released from prison later this month after more than a decade in custody.
Wanda Barzee, 72, was originally expected to serve another five years, but the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole said it hadn’t credited her time served toward her time in federal prison. She’s set to be released on Sept. 19.
Smart, who was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002, called the release “incomprehensible,” and said she was “trying to understand how and why this is happening.”
Barzee aided her husband, Brian David Mitchell, in the kidnapping of Smart, who was sexually abused until she was found walking down the street with her kidnappers nearly nine months later.
Barzee pleaded guilty to her role in the kidnapping in 2009 and agreed to testify against Mitchell, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2011. She has been in police custody for 15 years, reports said.
The board had previously announced that Barzee wouldn’t be released until January 2024 after she was denied early parole during a June hearing she didn’t attend. Barzee had refused to take a psychological exam.
"It is incomprehensible how someone who has not cooperated with her mental health evaluations or risk assessments and someone who did not show up to her own parole hearing can be released into our community," Smart said.
Smart, 30, is currently expecting her third child with husband, Matthew Gilmour, and has previously written a book about the harrowing experience. She’s also an activist for child safety.
“I appreciate the support, love and concern that has already been expressed and will work diligently to address the issue of Barzee's release as well as to ensure changes are made moving forward to ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future,” Smart added in the statement.
Barzee will reportedly remain under federal supervision for five years.