Elizabeth Smart upset over freeing kidnapper early

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A woman convicted of helping a former street preacher kidnap Elizabeth Smart in 2002 will be freed from prison more than five years earlier than expected, a surprise decision that Smart called “incomprehensible” on Tuesday.

Wanda Barzee, 72, will be released on September 19 after the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole determined it had miscalculated the time she was required to serve in prison, board spokesman Greg Johnson said.

Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping Smart and helping keep her captive for nine months before the then-teenager was found and rescued.

Smart, now 30, said in a statement she was “surprised and disappointed” to learn that Barzee will be freed next week. She said she’s exploring her options and plans to speak publicly in the coming days.

“It is incomprehensible 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,” Smart said.

The board said previously that Barzee would be released in January 2024 after it denied her an early parole following a hearing that she chose not to attend.