Wanda Barzee, the woman who helped to kidnap and imprison Elizabeth Smart, is living a few blocks from a Salt Lake City elementary school, the Associated Press is reporting.
Back in 2002, Wanda Barzee and her husband, street preacher Brian David Mitchell, kidnapped the then-14-year-old from her Utah home. Over the next nine months, the pair kept Elizabeth captive while Mitchell repeatedly raped her. Smart was later recognized and rescued.
In 2010, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison, and he remains behind bars to this day. Barzee was sentenced to 15 years.
However, in September 2018, as reported at the time by the Inquisitr, Utah prison officials said that a mistake had been made in calculating Barzee’s prison sentence. Despite fervent objections by Smart and other child-advocacy groups — and despite her failure to comply with mental health treatment while behind bars — Utah officials had no choice but to release her. She was sent to a Salt Lake City halfway house, and was required to register as a sex offender.
Barzee, 73, has since moved out of the halfway house and into an apartment. And as it turns out, that apartment is just a few blocks from Salt Lake City’s Parkview Elementary School, according to Utah’s sex offender registry.
Elizabeth Smart responds to news her kidnapper lives near elementary school: "Every possible caution and protection should be taken when it comes to protecting our children." https://t.co/gkvdvDK1Nj pic.twitter.com/W53y47JIJs
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 1, 2019
How Did This Happen?
Many states have strict laws regulating where sex offenders can live. In some states, such as Florida and Oklahoma, so strict are the laws that most sex offenders are basically forbidden from living in cities.
In Utah, however, sex offenders are forbidden from living within 500 feet of schools, according to the New York Daily News. What’s more, Utah sex offenders are prohibited from setting foot on school grounds, day care centers, parks, or playgrounds. Barzee is under federal supervised release, and federal guidelines apparently do not limit where Barzee might live.
Elizabeth, for her part, is appalled that this has been allowed to happen. She vehemently opposed Barzee’s release, and she’s equally aghast that she is now allowed to live down the street from an elementary school.
“Every possible caution and protection should be taken when it comes to protecting our children. Whether a person is deemed a current threat or if they have a history of child abuse, neglect, sexual violence, etc., prudent measures should be taken, including housing them as far away as possible from schools, families and community centers.”
The school in question is closed for the winter holiday break, meaning that there are currently no children there. Yandary Chatwin, a spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City School District, did not respond to requests for comment.