Wednesday, December 29, 2010


She looked so movie starlet perfect -- neat-featured, blue-eyed, natural blonde -- the child of an affluent Mormon family -- gentle, gentile was the look of this 14-year-old girl playing a harp.

The drama is over. The curtain is closed. As the stage manager in show biz says, "House lights back on!"

What a drama it was in June, 2002, when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from the bedroom she shared with her 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, who said a man with a knife appeared in their bedroom and threatened to kill everyone in the family if Elizabeth didn't come with him.

Daily alerts, interviews with the terrified, worried, but always poised parents, were interspersed with photos of a virginal Elizabeth playing the harp. Thousands of volunteers searched for her. There were prayers and candlelight vigils.

Educated by television crime shows, I figured the young girl was already a murder victim.

A handyman who'd worked for her family was accused. DNA and lie detector tests proved him innocent. When the man unexpectedly died, I couldn't help feeling the Smart family was somehow to blame.

Months were passing. There were flare-ups of news. Someone tried to abduct Elizabeth's cousin. Elizabeth's younger sister suddenly remembered another man -- a weirdo, a religious nut, who called himself Immanuel. The police immediately started looking for him.

Then, in March 2003, Elizabeth, disguised in a cheap grey wig, sun glasses and a head-covering, just happened to be spotted by a policeman, who began asking her questions.

It was a miracle, commentators said. I kept hoping for pictures of her and interviews with her, but all we got was Dad thanking God, and Mom, who told reporters that Elizabeth adjusted very quickly to being back home. "It's as if she'd never been away," Mom said.

Has it really been 8 years ago that all this happened?

Last month, during the trial of her abductor, we heard, finally, details of her sexual ordeal. The kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, claims he has written his own gospel which he calls the "Book of Immanuel David Isaiah."

The 23-year-old Elizabeth testified that he "married" her, and raped her nightly, hoping to get her pregnant so he could have a child. In September, 2002, he'd moved her, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, to San Diego, continuing to rape Elizabeth nightly while seeking another younger, more malleable wife. Forcing Elizabeth to drink, smoke, and look at porn, he claimed that debasing her elevated her to higher spiritual level.

After his attempt to kidnap a young California girl failed, he was arrested for breaking a church window, and briefly jailed. Elizabeth, who'd learned to manipulate him, telling Mitchell that God had told her what to do, convinced him they should hitchhike back to Salt Lake City.

Asked why she didn't try to escape, Elizabeth said, "Mitchell said he would kill everyone in my family, if I tried to."

Guilty! Guilty -- is what I thought whenever I saw flashes of the latest hot news during the trial.

The angelic looking child, who played the harp, is still immaculate looking, poised, not prudish. Elizabeth was in control until a defense psychiatrist suggested that the mentally ill Mitchell belonged in a psychiatric hospital.

Finally there was drama! Elizabeth Smart "stalked" out. (There were no photographs of her rushing out, but I would have loved to see it.)

Mitchell, who playacted nuttiness throughout the trial, was found guilty. He'll be sentenced in May. His wife has already been tried, found guilty and sentenced to 15 years.

What are Elizabeth's plans? After the verdict, her father told reporters that his daughter planned to return to France and finish a mission for the Mormon Church that she was doing there, then return to Utah's Brigham Young University to finish working on her music degree.

In 2003, at age 15, during an interview about her ordeal, a reporter asked her if she had a boyfriend. Elizabeth said,"yes." We knew more about her then, than we do now. Her face is still a face on a cameo, perfect, classic, unreal.

How can she be 23 and not have a single scar on her that we can see, or hear? Is it her upbringing? Daddy is a motivational speaker. Mom is a nodding, paper-doll of a mother. Is it their religion that keeps them so quiet, silent, graceful, poised?

I wonder if there's a knot of anger in Elizabeth Smart. Somehow, I wish there were. I wonder if she still plays the harp?
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