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Wanda Barzee, Elizabeth Smart Kidnapper, Is Now Free

Nicole Nixon
Elizabeth Smart speaks to reporters this month after news of Wanda Barzee's release.

Wanda Barzee was released from the Utah State Prison on Wednesday morning after serving a 15-year sentence for her role in the 2002 kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart.

The 72-year-old was released from custody a little after 8 a.m. from the Draper facility, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman confirmed. 

“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” said Greg Johnson, director of administrative services for Utah's Board of Pardons and Parole, who's been fielding inquiries from national media about the decision.

Johnson said the biggest misconception is that this is an early or parole release. In fact, after a miscalculation by authorities, it was determined Barzee had served her complete time.

“She has served the maximum length of her sentence and must be released,” he said.  

That doesn’t mean she won’t have some supervision. As part of the terms of her release, she’ll be monitored for five years.

“So she will have a federal officer and conditions she has to meet," said Johnson.

In 2002, Barzee and her husband kidnapped a then 14-year-old Smart for nine months, a story that captivated the nation.  

Smart, appearing on CBS “This Morning” on Tuesday, said she is strongly opposed to Barzee’s release.

“I don’t think this justice system is a victim’s system," said Smart.

Meanwhile, Barzee’s husband Brian David Mitchell is serving a life sentence in federal prison.

A Conversation With Elizabeth Smart15 years ago Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell, and a new film tells the story of her months in captivity. Friday, we

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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