Childhood & Early Life
Elizabeth Ann Smart was born on November 3, 1987, in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., to Edward and Lois Smart. Hers was a middle-class religious family. Her family ardently followed the faith of ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ She was the second-eldest child in the family and had five siblings, one sister and four brothers.
Her father was a successful real-estate businessman, and her mother was a homemaker. Elizabeth grew up as a usual teenager. She was shy, obedient, and smart.
She had a keen interest in music, and the harp was her favourite instrument. She aspired to become a musician upon growing up. She played the harp at local events and funerals. She also played at the ‘Annual Fall Concert’ in Salt Lake City. She attended the ‘Bryant Middle School,’ while making a name as a budding harpist. She later joined the ‘East High School,’ located in Salt Lake City.
She was academically good and also had an interest in athletics. She was a distance runner, too, and had participated in cross-country racing. She was all set to graduate high school and pursue college, but her dreams were shattered in 2002, when she faced an incident that changed her life forever.
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In the early hours of June 5, 2002, Brian Mitchell, a middle-aged man, broke into Elizabeth’s house, walked straight into her bedroom, where she was sleeping with her sister, and kidnapped her. Her sister, Mary Katherine, was pretending to sleep during the whole incident, as she was afraid for her life. However, she saw everything that took place that night.
When Brian left the bedroom and stood in the hall, Mary attempted to wake her parents up quickly. However, she wanted to avoid being seen by Brian. Hence, she ran back to her bed and lay down, pretending to sleep. At 4 am, she finally woke her parents up and told them about the entire incident.
Her parents did not believe her until they found a screen window that had been cut with a knife. They then went straight to the local police station. Later, they also appeared on TV, pleading with the kidnappers to bring their daughter back. Massive search parties scrutinized the local areas, looking for her. Posters declaring that she was “missing” were pasted all around Salt Lake City.
Elizabeth later said that she was taken into the woods just outside Salt Lake City. She claimed that she was married off to Brian in presence of his wife, Wanda. Following this, she was repeatedly raped by the man. Brian told Elizabeth that he was an “angel” and that he would kidnap and marry more virgin girls to fulfil his destiny, which was to kill the Antichrist.
She was tied to a tree to prevent her from escaping. She was also forced to look at pornographic magazines. Brian also threatened to kill her if she resisted. He kept her hungry for days and fed her garbage. She was also made to drink alcohol and consume drugs. Wanda supported her husband during all this.
Brian and Wanda took Elizabeth to public places many times. However, her face was always concealed. Thus, despite her face being on posters all around the city, nobody could recognize her. They also visited many grocery stores and restaurants, where Elizabeth was threatened into staying quiet.
For the next few months, all three of them continued to move between California and Utah. Elizabeth said that she was raped daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Back then, he also showed fake concerns toward her. He wanted her to accept his religious faith and accept him as her husband.
Mary, Elizabeth’s sister, suddenly recalled after several months that the kidnapper’s voice was similar to that of a man who had come to work at their house sometime earlier. The person had called himself Immanuel. The police investigated and established through photographs that Immanuel was actually Brian David Mitchell.
On March 12, 2003, Brian was recognized by a passer-by, as Brian’s face was all over the TV channels by then. The man called the police, and Brian was arrested. By the same evening, Elizabeth was returned to her family.
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The trial on Brian and Wanda began immediately and continued for years. Brian was said to be mentally disturbed. It took the court 8 years to convict Brian and his wife of kidnapping and rape. In May, 2010, Wanda was sentenced to 15 years in prison for being an accomplice in the crime. In May 2011, Brian was sentenced to life in prison.
After Her Release
Soon after she came back home safely, Elizabeth began leading a normal life. In 2006, she appeared in front of the ‘United States Congress’ to support the sexual predator legislation and the ‘AMBER Alert’ system. She later moved to Washington, D.C. and released the book titled ‘You’re Not Alone.’
In 2011, she laid the foundation of the ‘Elizabeth Smart Foundation,’ which works to educate children about the nature of sexual crimes and sexual violence. The foundation also supports the ‘Internet Crimes Against Children’ task force.
In July 2011, she was hired as a commentator by ‘ABC News,’ where she reported about missing people.
She has been awarded with many honors, such as a ‘Diane von Furstenberg Award’ and a ‘Siena Medal.’
She has also traveled around the country, delivering speeches about her personal experience with sexual abuse and suggesting ways to deal with the problem.
Many films, such as ‘The Elizabeth Smart Story’ and ‘I Am Elizabeth Smart,’ were made on her. She has also written her memoir, titled ‘My Story,’ in collaboration with Chris Stewart.
In 2018, she published yet another book, ‘Where There's Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up.’