Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart admits she once thought her ‘dream’ of having a family was ‘unreachable’ as she marks 19th anniversary of her ‘miracle’ rescue by paying tribute to her husband and three kids
Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart has marked the 19th anniversary of her rescue from her captors, saying it was a ‘miracle’ she was found nine months after being abducted from her family’s home.
The 34-year-old was famously taken from her bed at knifepoint when she was 14 years old and held captive by Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, before being rescued and returned to her parents on March 12, 2003.
Smart took to Instagram on Saturday to share a photo of herself with her husband, Matthew Gilmour, and their three children that was taken during a recent shoot with Sierra Campbell Photography, while reflecting on the day she was saved.
‘I have always believed in Miracles but today marks the 19 year anniversary of the biggest miracle I ever experienced. I just wanted to briefly say thank you to everyone who helped rescue me,’ she wrote.
Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, 34, reflected on her ‘miracle’ rescue in an Instagram post on Saturday, marking the 19th anniversary of her being found in Utah
Smart was famously abducted from her bed at knifepoint when she was 14 years old and held captive by Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee
‘Thank you to those of you who prayed for me, searched for me, and supported me all those years ago through today. I will forever be grateful.’
Smart went on to say that she is also thankful for her husband and children, explaining there were times when she didn’t think she’d have a family of her own.
‘I am happy today, and feel so lucky to have found my husband and best friend, and to be the mother to my three babies. For a while this dream felt far out of reach in fact completely unreachable,’ she shared.
Smart ended her post with a message for other kidnapping victims who have yet to be found and their families who are still searching for them.
She spent nine months, from June 2002 to March 2003, in captivity, with Mitchell performing a ‘marriage’ ceremony with her and raping her repeatedly
Smart was eventually found on March 12, 2003, at age 15 after witnesses in Sandy, Utah, called police. She is pictured with her parents in April 2003, a month after she was rescued
‘So today I want to say to those still searching you will always remain in my prayers and I refuse to lose hope that your loved ones will be found, and to those still missing don’t give up miracles happen, you deserve to be found, rescued, and to have happiness, and finally to those who are struggling along the way; no matter what point you find yourself, don’t give up,’ she concluded.
‘You never deserved to be hurt. You deserve to be believed, supported, loved, and happy. Everyone has a story and challenges, you are not alone. God bless all of you.’
Smart recently opened up about her concern for her family after she was kidnapped during an interview with Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris on Red Table Talk in October.
She recalled how she begged Mitchell to rape and kill her close to her house so that her parents would be able to find her body — and know for sure that she didn’t choose to run away from home.
‘My parents always said the worst part of having me gone was not knowing if I was alive and out there or if I was dead,’ she told the women.
In her latest post, she shared that she is thankful for her husband, Matthew Gilmour, and their children, explaining there were times when she didn’t think she’d have a family of her own
Smart has already started speaking to her seven-year-old daughter, Chloe, about what happened to her
‘And actually, when I was being taken up into the mountains, that first night that I was kidnapped, I asked him if he was gonna rape and kill me, and if he was gonna do that, could he please do it fairly close to my house, because it was important to me that my parents find my body and know that I hadn’t run away.’
Mitchell and Barzee didn’t kill her when they took her away from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah, but she was held in captivity for nine months, from June 2002 to March 2003.
The self-proclaimed prophet performed a mock wedding ceremony upon taking her into the woods and tied her up with steel cables in a dugout filled with mice and spiders.
She was forced to take drugs and drink alcohol, she testified in 2009, and was raped daily — as often as four times a day. They later moved her to Lakeside, California, for the winter and tried to kidnap other girls.
‘Their plan was to kidnap seven young girls. I was just the first. And they actually made several attempts while I was with them,’ she recalled.
Mitchell (pictured being escorted to court in 2005) subjected Smart to horrific abuse and was convicted in 2010
Mitchell (left) is serving life in prison, but his wife, Wanda Barzee (right), was sentenced to just 15 years and was released in September 2018
Smart explained that while she spent those nine months wishing someone would find her, there were times she lost hope she’d ever make it home.
‘I always wanted to be rescued. I don’t know that I always had hope. There were some pretty dark times for sure,’ she said.
After Mitchell and Barzee’s last failed attempt to kidnap another girl, she convinced them to return to Utah. She was eventually found at age 15 after witnesses in Sandy called police.
One said she recognized Smart, while another said she recognized the abductor.
‘I don’t think I’ll ever lose my faith in humanity, because everyone kept their eyes open and just simple phone calls to the police ultimately led to my rescue, my homecoming,’ she explained.
Smart shared harrowing details of her experience in a candid new interview with Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris on Red Table Talk in October
She recalled how she begged her abductor to rape and kill her close to her house so that her parents would be able to find her body
‘My parents always said the worst part of having me gone was not knowing if I was alive and out there or if I was dead,’ she told the women
Smart has since gone on to become a public speaker, an author, and an advocate, and she openly speaks about her ordeal.
She and her husband now have three children of their own: seven-year-old Chloe, four-year-old James, and three-year-old Olivia. She has already started speaking to her eldest daughter about what happened to her.
‘They are young,’ she said on Red Table Talk, ‘but someone told me that as soon as your child starts asking questions, that’s the right time to start talking to them.
‘One of my captors was coming up for parole, and I was supposed to go down to the prison that day to go give a victim impact statement. My daughter, my oldest, didn’t really want me to go and kept asking [questions].
‘I started talking to her, but it’s not in graphic detail. “When mommy was younger, there was a man who broke into my home and hurt me. And now he and his wife are in jail and I’m going down there to make sure that they stay in jail,”‘ she said.
Smart admitted that she is ‘overprotective’ as a mother, but that’s where her husband comes in to ‘pull her back down to earth’
Smart has spoken openly about her ordeal as a public speaker, an author, and an advocate
Smart admitted that she is ‘overprotective’ as a mother, but that’s where her husband comes in to ‘pull her back down to earth.’
Though Mitchell is serving life in prison, Barzee was sentenced to just 15 years. In a plea deal, she was given credit for the seven years she had already served.
She was released from prison in September 2018 and now lives in the same town as Smart, despite Smart’s pleas to the parole board not to set her free.
Smart admitted she was ‘disappointed’ in the outcome, but said it gives her a greater appreciation for those victims who never even have a ‘smidgen of justice.’
‘At least I got something. How many more haven’t?’ she said.