Elizabeth Smart gives new details about ordeal

Published: Friday, May 1 2009 1:17 a.m. MDT

Elizabeth Smart speaks to a crime victims conference at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

Elizabeth Smart vividly remembers being awakened in the middle of the night by "feeling something cold and sharp to my neck."

She awoke to a bearded man armed with a knife who was wearing a stocking cap and whom she thought she had never seen before. He told her, "Don't make a sound. Get up out of bed quickly."

Speaking Thursday at the annual Crime Victims Conference at the Capitol, Smart talked for the first time in detail about portions of her nine-month kidnapping in 2002, including an experience in San Diego where she was so weak from starvation that she couldn't move after going a week without food.

Her father, Ed Smart, who sat in the audience listening, said after her speech that it was the first time even he had heard some of the details revealed Thursday.

Elizabeth Smart received a standing ovation as she entered the auditorium. Her message was to let other survivors know that they no longer have to be called "victims," and that once their ordeal is over, they can resume trying to fulfill their dreams.

Just because one bad incident happens in your life, she said, you don't have to live the rest of your life around it. Smart recalled her mother telling her after she returned home, "They took nine months from you. Make sure you don't give any more to them."

Smart told the group of victims' advocates Thursday that life comes in steps and degrees. She said there had been a couple of incidents in her life that made her realize how much she loved her parents and how grateful she was for her family and everything she had.

One of those incidents came during the early morning hours of June 5, 2002, when a man walked into Elizabeth's house and kidnapped her from her bed.

Smart recalled that before she went to bed that night, she was not happy, because her mother was not letting her go on a trip with her friend. She was asked to say the evening prayer that night at the dinner table.

"It was the only time I didn't pray to watch over us in the night," she recalled.

Smart, who was 14, shared a room at that time with her 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine. She read a book to Mary Katherine after the two had gone to bed, her sister falling asleep before the book was finished.

It would later be Mary Katherine who provided the biggest break in the case by feigning sleep and watching as her older sister was taken. Mary Katherine would remember several months later a mysterious roofer who worked at the Smart house. That roofer was later identified as Brian David Mitchell.

As Elizabeth Smart was being forced to get her shoes from her closet, she recalled she was in a daze and wondered if it was a prank.

"I kept thinking, 'This couldn't be real. This couldn't be happening. I'm in my own bed, I'm safe,' " she said. "I was so confused."

As the man with the knife led her out of the house and up into the foothills behind her backyard, Smart realized, "This is not a prank. This is real."

Thoughts of confusion quickly turned to fear. Smart said she tried talking to the man, asking him several times, "Why are you doing this?"

"He kept pushing me further into the mountains. I kept praying for a chance to escape."

Smart confronted the man, saying, "Do you know what you're doing? Do you know you're going to prison?"

The bearded man replied, "I'm not going to be caught," Smart said.

She recalled trying to bargain with her abductor, telling him she'd speak in his behalf if he let her go. She said she thought she would be raped and killed and her body would be found five years later in a ditch or spread across the mountain.

"If you're going to do it, do it now," Smart said she told her abductor.

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