Wanda Barzee, who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart in 2002, was released from prison on Sept. 19, and she’s reportedly staying at a hotel in South Salt Lake, UT. Since then, several neighbors have come forward expressing their concerns.
Vanessa Phillips, who has lived in the hotel with her two children for a couple months, said she saw Barzee outside the hotel Wednesday afternoon. “I remember her face,” she told FOX 13. “I smiled — I always smile at everyone around here, they’re all homeless and I say hi — not realizing it was her, though.”
The now 72-year-old walked free earlier this week after spending more than 15 years behind bars. She admitted to helping her husband, Brian David Mitchell, take a then-teenage Smart from her Utah home and held her captive for nine months.
In July, the Utah Board of Pardons denied her an early release, but last Tuesday, they made a surprising reversal decision.
“Upon further review and advice from legal counsel, the board must count time spent in federal custody toward Ms. Barzee’s state sentence,” Greg Johnson, the director of administrative services said at the time.
Now, her new address is listed on the Utah Department of Corrections‘ sex offender registry — and she’s already having problems mingling with the public. Hours after she strolled out of Utah State Prison, cops were reportedly called by a neighboring hotel guest. They allegedly claimed that she was wailing religious scripture at the top of her lungs. The guest also said Barzee was loudly praising Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
According to the report, however, a law enforcement source said the call came in to dispatch, but when officers tried to call the complainant back, no one responded. As a result, they did not send a unit to check it out.
Upon hearing the news of Barzee’s release, Smart wrote a statement promising to keep the community safe: “I am trying to understand how and why this is happening and exploring possible options… I appreciate the support, love, and concern that has already been expressed and will work diligently to address the issue of Barzee’s release as well as to ensure changes are made moving forward to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else in the future.”