Wanda Barzee: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

wanda barzee

Getty Wanda Barzee mugshot from in 2003 when arrested for kidnapping Elizabeth Smart. Barzee will be released from prison Sept. 19 2018.

Wanda Ilene Barzee pleaded guilty to helping her husband kidnap Elizabeth Smart. Barzee walked out of prison Wednesday, as ordered by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.

Smart was just 14 when she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in the late spring 16 years ago. Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee abducted Smart at knife-point in her house as her younger sister Mary Katherine witnessed the kidnapping but terrified, feigned sleep.

While in captivity, under guard by Mitchell and Barzee, Smart was chained and repeatedly raped. She was also on occasion with the couple in public but wasn’t recognized.

Smart was rescued nine months later.

Mitchell, who claimed to be a preacher, was diagnosed as a sociopath and a narcissist but neither of those diagnoses was accepted; he was competent to stand trial and was sentenced to life in prison in 2011.

Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for her role in the kidnapping of Smart. She has served her time and was released from prison Sept. 19.

Video of her release and a report that her first night out of prison she had police called on her for a religious rant she went on while in a Utah hotel.

TMZ reported Barzee was at a Salt Lake City hotel and, “according to a guest staying in an adjacent room, Barzee went on a religious tirade …wailing religious scripture at the top of her lungs.” TMZ was also told that Barzee could be heard “loudly praising Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.” The online and TV tabloid reported that cops confirmed “…a call came in to dispatch from a guest at the hotel, but when officers tried to call the complainant back, no one responded.”

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Barzee, Now 72, Walked Out of Utah State Prison a Free Woman. She Pleaded Guilty for Kidnapping & Attempted Kidnapping 2009 in Federal Court & in 2010 in State Court

wanda barzee

Alleged Elizabeth Smart Kidnapper Wanda Barzee Appears In Court handcuffed April 22, 2003 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Barzee is charged with the alleged abduction of teenager Elizabeth Smart June 5, 2002.

The Utah Board of Pardons wrote that it has “…granted Ms. Barzee 2436 days of credit for time served (including jail and Utah State Hospital time from 03/18/2003 to 11/17/2009) of presentence incarceration” and caluclated that based on all the timeshe served in federal lock-ups, she’s maxed out her time.

“The Board of Pardons’s calculation of the expiration date of Ms. Barzee’s Utah state sentence is fifteen years from the date of sentencing with credit for time served …,” the board wrote, “thus, upon Ms. Barzee’s arrival at the Utah State Prison on 04/08/2016, she had 894 days remaining, which makes her expiration date 09/19/2018. Release at Expiration of Sentence on 09/19/2018.”

In other words, time served.

The Board did note that she owes the state “$1,690.29 restitution payable to Utah Commission of Criminal and Juvenile Justice for extradition costs …”


2. Barzee Met Mitchell & Married Him. She Already Had 6 Kids. They Later Called Her a ‘Monster’ Who Should ‘Never See the Light of Day’

wanda barzee

Shackles bind the feet of Wanda Barzee at her hearing January 9, 2004 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Barzee and her husband, Brian Mitchell, are accused of kidnapping teenager Elizabeth Smart.

In 2010, just after Barzee pleaded guilty and was in a prison psychiatric facility, some of her children went on the Oprah Show. Barzee’s daughter LoeRee Gayler told the story of the time their mother, while married to Mitchell, killed and fed them her pet rabbit for dinner.

Gayler said she was starved for affection, abused and suffered some of the “harshest memories of her mother and her two husbands.” Gayler said she retreated to her dog and its doghouse for solace and ate from the dog’s bowl.

Another of Barzee’s children, Derrick Thompson, wrote a book called “Raised By Wolves,” wherein he described the abuse he and his siblings suffered. He in turn escaped by shooting birds and cooking them over a spit, a story from 2010 reads. “‘Raised by Wolves’ is a journey through the life of Derrick Thompson. The story encompasses and details abuse cycles that led to the eventual kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. With pitfalls, anguish and humor, the story is a roller coaster of emotion, much like the author,” the description says. The book has two reviews on Good Reads, one simply says, “This guy needs help.”

It’s also alleged that Barzee and Mitchell, who were at once religiously zealous but perversely disturbed, knelt and prayed with Gayler and Mitchell showed her pornographic images: “My mom was praying and I was kneeling there, and Brian actually nudged me and he pulled out some photos of some nude women and laid them up on the bed, and it seems that they were trying to get me to participate with them that day,” she said at the time.

Another child said in 2010, she was brainwashed by her mother: “We would be called up to her room, and she would sit there and drum into us, ‘If you weren’t a part of this family, then the family would be fine,'” the girl called Andrea said. “I think the media portrayed my mother as being a victim of Brian David Mitchell, and I think one of the reasons I wanted to come on this show is to kind of expose her for the monster she is.”

Daughter Rhonda McLeod said on the show she was close to her mother and had forgiven her.

Gayler said her mother should be imprisoned and never “…see the light of day again.”

That was in 2010.


3. Ed Smart Held Brazee Responsible, Felt Sorry For Her But Did Not Forgive in 2010. Now, Smart Wants Barzee to Steer Clear of the Family

Ed Smart said after Barzee pleaded guilty in 2010 that he held her responsible: “When I think of Elizabeth being taken, Wanda certainly perpetuated this,” he told Good Morning America eight years ago.

“[Brian David Mitchell] had built up this idea of what they were going to have and he was going to have all of these slave wives and she was going to be the queen. And she was very much of the opinion that this is what she was going to have and this was going to get her there. And she wanted that,” Smart said.
When Barzee pleaded guilty to federal charges kidnapping charges in November, she apologized to Smart and her family, and asked for forgiveness.


4. Elizabeth Smart Says She’s ‘Surprised & Disappointed’ in the ‘Incomprehensible’ Release of Her Kidnapper

View this post on Instagram

I’ve been meaning to post this all week, I will be the first to admit I have no business telling anyone how to parent their child, I’m still trying to figure that one out for myself. But I want to encourage every parent to sit down with their child and talk to them about sexual abuse and awareness. I know it’s a scary topic to bring up but as it’s the beginning of a new school year this really should be a priority. New classrooms, teachers, friends, schools, people, and places are a big part of this time of year and the best thing we can do is try to prepare and prevent sexual abuse from ever happening. Some points that should be covered are: Making sure they know they are loved unconditionally, no matter what You will always have their corner It doesn’t matter who threatens, scares, or makes them feel uncomfortable that behavior is unacceptable and they need to tell you You will always believe them (I know it sounds silly but the amount of survivors who I have spoken to have been scared to speak up because they think no one will believe them is staggering, probably one of the most common reasons why young survivors don’t speak up) “No” is a great answer And as much as we talk about being polite and kind there are times when it is completely acceptable to yell, bite, scream, do what ever they have to to protect themselves It is obviously up to you how detailed you are in these conversations, and making them age appropriate. But in a world where unfortunately sexual violence and abuse is so prevalent and so easily silenced it is vital that we have these difficult conversations. #preparednotscared #endingsilence #prevention #preventioneducation #hardconversations #sexualabuse #sexualviolence #rape Totally off topic yes that big blue kitchen mitt is my harp covered, my kids think it’s a climbing toy

A post shared by Elizabeth Smart (@elizabeth_smart_official) on Aug 30, 2018 at 5:14pm PDT

“I was surprised and disappointed to learn of the pending release of Wanda Barzee. It is in comprehensible 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. I’m trying to understand how and why this is happening and exploring possible options,” her statement reads. It was shared by reporter Ladd Eagn.

“I plan to speak publicly in the coming days once I have a better understanding. I appreciate the support, love and concern that I had 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.”

In interviews after Barzee’s release, Smart said Barzee’s one-line apology was entirely insufficient.

“I don’t think you can kidnap a 14-year-old girl and, you know, not only sit by while she’s being raped but encourage the rapist to continue. Then at the end pf it say ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it …”


5. Elizabeth Smart Has Spent Her Life Since as an Advocate for the Missing & for Victims of Sexual Assault

Since her abduction, Smart has gone on to become an advocate for missing persons and victims of sexual assault.

Smart’s website explains that her kidnapping and nine-months imprisoned “was one of the most followed child abduction cases of our time.”

She says Mitchell and Barzee, her “captors controlled her by threatening to kill her and her family if she tried to escape.” She was with them from June 5 2002 until March 12, 2003.

“Through this traumatic experience, Elizabeth has become an advocate for change related to child abduction, recovery programs, and National legislation. Elizabeth triumphantly testified before her captor and the world about the very private nightmare she suffered during her abduction, which led to conviction,” her website reads.

The Founder of the “Elizabeth Smart Foundation”, Elizabeth has also helped promote The National AMBER Alert, The Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act and other safety legislation to help prevent abductions.


Elizabeth Rough V22017-04-21T20:11:45.000Z

She has also “worked with the Department of Justice to create a survivors guide, entitled, ‘You’re Not Alone: The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment.’ This guide is meant to encourage children who have gone through similar experiences not to give up but to know that there is hope for a rewarding life.”

Smart attended Brigham Young University, studied music, was married in 2012 and she and her husband Matthew have two children.

“Elizabeth’s example is a daily demonstration that there really is life after tragedy.”

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