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Trying for normal

Family takes a break as questions remain

Published: Sunday, March 16 2003 12:41 a.m. MST

After three days of news conferences and public celebrations, Elizabeth Smart and her family simply spent time with each other Saturday. They avoided the public eye —and the persistent stream of questions and wonderings stemming from the 15-year-old's nine-month kidnapping odyssey.

Elizabeth's best friend returned from a trip to California on Friday night and saw Elizabeth for the first time, Smart family spokesman Chris Thomas said. The two had a "great time" just doing what normal teenage girls do, he said.

Overall, Thomas said, Elizabeth is doing "remarkably well" considering what she's been through. He admitted, however, that "things aren't perfect." When asked to elaborate, Thomas said there are times Elizabeth seems a little distracted. But if you had no idea who Elizabeth was or that she had been a captive for three-quarters of a year, you wouldn't have a clue anything was wrong, he said.

At week's end, Thomas and others near the case and experts observing it tried to clear up some of the rumors and questions that have been circulating since Elizabeth was found Wednesday afternoon:

QuestionWas Elizabeth "married" to Brian David Mitchell, her alleged kidnapper?

Answer — Asked if some sort of ceremony was performed in the foothills above her Federal Heights home on the night Mitchell is alleged to have abducted her, Thomas said, "Elizabeth did what she needed to do to survive. Had she been resistant, this case may not have had a positive out come."

QuestionCould she be pregnant?

Answer — "She is unequivocally not pregnant and never has been," Thomas emphasized, quashing a specific rumor.

QuestionHas Elizabeth changed?

Answer — Family members report that she is healthy, happy and glad to be home enjoying the little things she missed, such as movies, bubble baths and time with family and friends. The Smart family's LDS bishop, Dave Hamblin, told Newsweek's Elise Christenson that she has changed; she is a little more somber and she has matured a lot. (Newsweek's Web exclusive can be found at www.msnbc.com.)

QuestionWhy didn't she run away from her captors?

Answer — No one knows for sure. A combination of factors is most likely, behavior experts say. The child's fear, shyness, naivety and a passive nature mixed with constant efforts by the adult couple to brainwash her and give her a new identity could have blocked out thoughts of escape. An expert on cult behavior told the Deseret News this week that something much deeper was at work than the so-called Stockholm syndrome in which captives exhibit a bond and sympathy for their captors. Elizabeth was absorbing a new personality, he said, which might explain why she initially gave police a false name and claimed not to be the girl they were looking for. The expert said she will clearly have to be deprogrammed. Mitchell's family members also accused him of being a borderline pedophile. Such people, psychiatrists said, become experts in targeting victims and can be very skilled at ingratiating themselves to children and their parents.

QuestionWhen will her life be back to normal?

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