LOS ANGELES — A self-styled prophet who kidnapped a teenager and held her captive for nine months was jailed for life Wednesday, closing a chapter on one of most notorious cases in recent US criminal history.
Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when she was taken from the bedroom of her home in June 2002 and was repeatedly raped during her ordeal, came face to face in court with her abductor Brian David Mitchell shortly before he was sentenced.
“Miracles can happen. And they still do happen today. It’s been a huge miracle in my life that I can be standing in front of you here today,” she told reporters afterwards outside court in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mitchell’s wife Wanda Barzee was jailed for 15 years in 2009 after pleading guilty to helping her husband kidnap Smart, who was repeatedly sexually assaulted before being rescued in March 2003 less than 20 miles from her home.
Prosecutors hailed the sentencing of 57-year-old Mitchell, whose trial was delayed for years as lawyers and doctors haggled over whether he was mentally competent to be tried.
“Not only is the defendant a recidivist, but his refusal to acknowledge the wrongfulness of his conduct poses an even greater risk of future crimes against children,” prosecutors said in documents calling for the life sentence.
“The defendant cannot be released back into society. A sentence of life is an appropriate and reasonable sentence in this case,” federal prosecutors said.
Assistant US Attorney Felice John Viti said that, on the day Smart was abducted, “her world, as she knew it, changed suddenly, violently and without warning. It changed beyond her comprehension.
“On that morning, for Ms. Smart, the bogey man under the bed, the monster in the closet became real.”
Utah District Attorney Carlie Christensen added: “A sentence of life in prison for Brian David Mitchell is an appropriate, just and long overdue result for this community, the Smart family, and most importantly, Elizabeth.
“Mitchell’s heinous criminal conduct and the evidence of his propensity to re-offend warrant nothing less,” he added.