She was just 14-years-old when she was kidnapped from her room at knife point in 2002.
Nearly nine years later, justice has finally been served. Brian David Mitchell has been sentenced to life in prison for transporting a minor across state lines for purposes of sex.
I was a brand new producer at the Salt Lake City FOX affiliate the year Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped. In fact, I lived a few blocks from the Smart family when she was taken. Honestly, we never thought she’d be found alive. No one did. The odds were not in her favor.
I was in the newsroom nearly nine months after she went missing when our assignment editor answered the phone and then shouted to the newsroom, “Elizabeth Smart has been found alive!”
We all laughed at what we thought was a joke. But he was serious. The next hours passed in a blur of news scripts and live shots as a flabbergasted nation watched Elizabeth Smart reunite with her family.
Today FOX called and asked if I could field produce reporters and photographers stationed at the courtroom awaiting the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell. Three this afternoon found me camped outside with a mob of reporters, waiting to hear the judge’s decision.
Reporter Sandy Riesgraf had a front row seat for the action inside and tells me Mitchell walked into the courtroom and began quietly singing hymns. He showed no reaction when a very composed Elizabeth Smart, now 23, rose to address him. Later outside the courtroom she reiterated what she said. “As I said during court and I’ll say it again now, I absolutely 100% believe that Brian David Mitchell knew exactly what he was doing when he kidnapped me and all the events that followed.”
Mitchell did not look at Smart when she spoke to him and said nothing when given the chance to speak before the judge sentenced him.
Life in prison.
Riesgraf tells me that when the sentence was announced Smart squeezed her younger sister’s arm and mouthed the word “YES! YES! YES!” The judge called Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping an “unusually heinous and degrading set of circumstances that lasted for nine months.”
Mitchell’s attorney argued for leniency, saying he’s severely mentally ill. The judge said he’d recommend Mitchell go to a facility where he’ll get treatment. Where exactly Mitchell will serve time will be up to The U.S. Bureau of Prisons, but there are several prison hospitals across the country. Mitchell’s wife and fellow kidnapper, Wanda Barzee, is already serving a fifteen year sentence in federal prison.
Outside the courtroom, with her proud father beaming by her side, Elizabeth Smart told the crowd of national and local reporters that she wasn’t nervous at all when speaking directly to her abductor. Know this will likely be the last time she will see Mitchell or share the same room with him she had just one word: “Hallelujah.”
What do you think? Did Mitchell deserve leniency for an alleged mental illness or has justice finally been served?