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Elizabeth Smart said she found it “incomprehensible” that the one of the people who kidnapped and held her captive for nine months is being released from prison years before expected.
The Utah parole board on Tuesday announced its decision to release Wanda Barzee, 72, from prison, saying it had miscalculated her sentence. The surprise ruling reverses a decision the board made in July, when it denied Barzee parole because she had refused to meet with a prison psychologist for a review.
Barzee has spent more than 15 years behind bars and wasn't expected to be released for another five years. She is now scheduled to walk out of prison on Sept. 19.
Smart, now 30 and a child safety activist, said she was “surprised and disappointed” to learn about the decision.
“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,” she said in a statement.
“I am trying to understand how and why this is happening and exploring possible options. I plan to speak publicly in the coming days once I have a better understanding.”
Smart also expressed appreciation for the support and concern she has received immediately after the news broke. She promised to “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.”
After Barzee's release next week, she will be under federal supervision for five years.
In 2002, Barzee and her husband, Brian David Mitchell, kidnapped a then 14-year-old Smart at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home. Smart was raped and tortured nearly every day of the nine months she was held captive.
In 2010, Barzee pled guilty to state and federal charges for her role in the abduction and began serving a sentence of 15 years.
She was originally slated for release in 2024, but the Utah parole board declared Tuesday that it must count time Barzee spent in federal custody toward her state sentence, meaning that she will have served her time as of next Wednesday.
Mitchell, her husband, is serving a life sentence.
Smart has said she has forgiven her captors but that doesn’t mean “their actions are acceptable."
“They have taken so much, and so if I live the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself and holding onto the past that they won, that they stole more time, and they don’t deserve that," she said during a TODAY interview earlier this year.
Smart is now married with two young children and a third baby on the way.