Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom in 2002 when she was 14. After missing for nine months, she was rescued and returned to her family. Today, Smart is an American child safety activist, author, and contributor for ABC News.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Smart was raised in an LDS family with four brothers and one sister. On June 5th, 2002, she was abducted from her bedroom at knife-point. She shared the bedroom with her younger sister, who witnessed the event. The younger sister woke their parents and told them what had happened. At first, they found it hard to believe, but after realizing that Smart was indeed missing from the home and that a downstairs window screen had been slashed with a knife.
A massive manhunt began for Smart. Close to 2,000 volunteers searched the area around the home to look for any clues or trace of the missing daughter. After a few days of community searching that led to no leads, efforts were directed to other options of finding Smart. There was very little forensic evidence and all leads eventually led nowhere.
Smart’s younger sister remembered hearing the kidnapper calling himself “Emmanuel,” which led police to believe that it could be Brian David Mitchell, who called himself “Emmanuel.” Mitchell had been one of the many homeless or needy people that the Smarts would hire to do odd jobs around the house. A police sketch was drawn. Mitchell’s family recognized him and provided photographs of the man they were now looking for. It was also Mitchell’s family that gave police his real and full name. Before then, authorities only knew him as “Emmanuel.”
Smart’s story spread nationwide and was shown on America’s Most Wanted and Larry King Live. This proved to be the source of a break in the case when a biker in Sandy, Utah spotted two people who looked
like the suspects he had seen on America’s Most Wanted. The two people were Smart – disguised in a gray wig, sunglasses and veil – and Mitchell’s partner, Wanda Ileen Barzee. During questioning, one of the officers recognized Smart. Mitchell and Barzee were arrested as kidnappers, and Smart was returned to her family.
During her abduction, Smart was raped three to four times a day. She was also tied up and threatened with death if she tried to escape.
Since her rescue, Smart has become an example of strength, courage, survival, and healing to many. In 2006 she spoke before Congress to support sexual predator legislation and the AMBER Alert system. She has returned to D.C. several times for similar events. Smart spoke at a women’s conference in 2009 about overcoming obstacles in life, and formed the Elizabeth Smart Foundation in 2011. The foundation works to support the Internet Crimes Against Children task force and educates children about violent and sexual crime. Currently, the foundation is working on merging with Operation Underground Railroad to combine their efforts in fighting human trafficking.
Smart served an LDS mission in Paris. She temporarily left the mission in order to testify against Brian David Mitchell, and then returned to complete it. In 2012, Smart became engaged to Scottish native Matthew Gilmour, whom she originally met while serving her mission. They married quietly and quickly to avoid media attention. The couple was married in the Laie Hawaii Temple. Today, they have two children together.
In 2011, Smart became one of four women to be awarded the Diane von Furstenberg Award. That same year, it was also announced that she would be a commentator for ABC News, focusing on missing persons.
Smart spoke at a human trafficking conference at John Hopkins University in 2013. There, she emphasized the importance of dispelling the cultural myths that surround girls losing value after sexual contact. She talked about her own experiences during her kidnapping and how she thought she was useless and a “chewed up piece of gum” because she had been raped.
My Story, Smart’s memoir, was released in 2013.
Smart’s story has also been featured in a book by her uncle, In Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart Investigation, a book by her father, Bringing Elizabeth Home, and a television movie, The Elizabeth Smart Story.
Having studied the harp and music in college, Smart is also an extremely talented harpist who has performed on national TV.
In 2017 it was announced that Smart’s story would also be the subject of an A&E documentary and a Lifetime original movie.
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