UTAH STATE PRISON — Elizabeth Smart abductor Wanda Barzee could remain in state prison until 2024, though her lawyer says she has served her time and should already be free.
Barzee, 72, unexpectedly refused to attend a parole hearing Tuesday and has also refused to undergo a psychological evaluation, which the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole requires for a decision on her early release because she pleaded guilty and mentally ill.
Elizabeth Smart did not appear at the hearing, which lasted about three minutes, where victims typically get time to speak to the board. Smart later posted on Instagram that she arrived at the prison after the hearing was over due to a "silly mix-up."
In the post, Smart called it good news that Barzee was not released but said she finds it troubling that she could be out in six years or less.
"I do not think I’m a vindictive or vengeful person, if change were truly possible in her case then perhaps parole/release could be justified," she wrote "But I have recently learned that she is still carrying around a manuscript called 'The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah' and is reading from it."
Smart wrote that the manuscripts contains "revelations" Brian David Mitchell says he received from God to kidnap her and six other young girls to become his wives, along with other "highly disturbing and dangerous ideas."
"This is proof to me that she hasn’t changed, and if the prior 15+ years hasn’t changed her, I don’t see how the future years will," Smart wrote.
Mitchell and Barzee were convicted in one of the state's highest profile crimes ever when they kidnapped a 14-year-old Smart from her home in 2002. Mitchell, 64, is serving a life sentence in a high security federal prison in Tucson, Arizona.
Barzee was sentenced in 2010 to 15 years in federal prison for her role in the kidnapping. She also pleaded guilty and mentally ill in state court to the attempted kidnapping of Smart's cousin, Olivia Wright, a few months after Smart was taken, and received a one-to-15-year state prison term.
Judges agreed to run the two sentences concurrently because Barzee cooperated in the federal prosecution of Mitchell. She was transferred to the Utah State Prison in April 2016 after being held in a federal prison in Texas.
Scott Williams, Barzee's attorney, said after the hearing Tuesday that Barzee has already served more than 15 years, including time in custody after her arrest. The plea agreement never contemplated her coming back into state jurisdiction, he said.
Barzee's release date is set for Jan. 29, 2024.
"I'm trying to understand how the state of Utah thinks they can hold her more than 15 years on a 15-year sentence maximum," he said. "I didn't ever expect Wanda Barzee to come back to the Utah State Prison, and in my opinion, neither did any of the representatives of the state of Utah or the United States government that I negotiated with."
Greg Johnson, parole board administrative services director, said the board would look into Williams' questions about the state's calculation of Barzee's sentence and release date.
"We always want to make sure we review information and that we're making decisions based on accurate statements as well as that we're functioning within the limits of the law," he said.
Barzee finished her federal sentence and was transferred to Utah on a detainer to serve out the state term, Johnson said. The state credits her for time in jail before her conviction and in the Utah State Hospital, but "stopped the clock" during her time in federal prison, he said Tuesday.
Yet when she was sentenced on May 21, 2010, Barzee was given credit in federal prison for the seven years she had been in custody, but was not given any credit for time served in her state sentence.
Johnson said if Barzee continues to refuse a mental health evaluation, she could be in prison until 2024.
"Given the history, I have some ideas about what might be going on," Williams said. "There's been other circumstances where Ms. Barzee's mental illness has impacted the ability to move examinations and assessments forward."
He said he hasn't talked to Barzee for more than a year and doesn't know her mental state.
Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart's father, also arrived after the hearing ended. He said it's up to health care professionals to determine whether Barzee should be released.
"To me, hearing and seeing what I’ve seen, it's Barzee as usual," he said.12 comments on this story
Ed Smart said he recently heard from a reliable source that Barzee "still follows Mitchell, carries around his little bitty bible and her refusal to come today seems like it's just an indicator that she is still of the same mindset she was back at the time she took Elizabeth."
In her Instragram post, Elizabeth Smart said she would continue to pray that Barzee "will never be a threat to myself, my family, or any vulnerable person ever again.
"A lot can happen between now and the years to come so in the meantime I will continue to make my family my priority, working to advocate and protect victims and children, and live my life the best way I know how."