Niece says fam­ily won’t take in Smart’s kid­nap­per

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NATION -

SALT LAKE CITY — Once an ac­com­plished or­gan player in Salt Lake City, Wanda Barzee be­came a dis­turb­ing fig­ure for mem­bers of her own fam­ily af­ter she helped in the 2002 kid­nap­ping of then-teenager Elizabeth Smart.

Days be­fore the 72-year-old woman is re­leased from prison, loom­ing fears about whether she re­mains a threat and calls to keep her off the streets bring up deep-rooted ques­tions about men­tal-health treat­ment in the na­tion’s pris­ons, an ex­pert said.

And de­tails of the crime still hor­rify Barzee’s niece, Tina Mace.

“It just makes you ill. How could any­one do that?” she said.

Her aunt played the or­gan at her wed­ding decades ago, be­fore Barzee joined Brian David Mitchell as he acted on his so-called rev­e­la­tions from God.

Like Smart, Mace is alarmed by the sur­prise an­nounce­ment last week by Utah au­thor­i­ties, who said they had mis­cal­cu­lated her aunt’s sen­tence and would re­lease her from prison Sept. 19

“From what I know, no fam­ily can take her in or would take her in,” Mace said.

Fed­eral agents have found a place for Barzee to live when she starts her five-year su­per­vised re­lease, said Eric An­der­son, the deputy chief U.S. Pro­ba­tion Of­fi­cer for Utah.

He de­clined to say whether she’ll be in a pri­vate home or a fa­cil­ity, but she “will not be home­less,” he said.

Barzee has served the 15-year sen­tence she got in a plea deal the year she tes­ti­fied against street preacher Mitchell, her then-hus­band who kid­napped the girl from her bed­room at knife­point.

Dur­ing her months in cap­tiv­ity, Smart said, the older woman sat nearby and en­cour­aged her hus­band as he raped the teenager.

Smart is now a 30-yearold speaker and ac­tivist who said Thurs­day she’s deeply con­cerned Barzee re­mains a threat, cit­ing her re­fusal to co­op­er­ate with men­tal-health treat­ment in prison and re­ports she may still har­bor Mitchell’s be­liefs.

Smart called for au­thor­i­ties to con­sider care­fully whether in­mates have been suc­cess­fully treated be­fore they are re­leased.

But large-scale changes re­quir­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion could pose trou­bling ques­tions, said Rebecca Weiss, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the John Jay Col­lege of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice in New York.

“We could be in­car­cer­at­ing some­one in­def­i­nitely who has served their sen­tence,” she said.

Treat­ing the dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness in U.S. pris­ons — many of whom are not vi­o­lent — is among the sys­tem’s big­gest chal­lenges. While there is a need to pro­tect the pub­lic, in­mates also have the right to refuse treat­ment.

Wanda Barzee

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