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A Year Later, Elizabeth Smart Is a Normal Teen

Elizabeth Smart's (search) parents call their daughter a normal, independent 16-year-old -- complete with boyfriends, a curfew, a messy room and an overused cell phone.

Her father, Ed Smart, considers it a miracle.

"It's like she just dropped back in and proceeded from where she left off," Ed Smart (search) said, speaking to The Associated Press on Tuesday at the family's Salt Lake City home.

March 12 is the one-year anniversary of Elizabeth's return home after a nine-month abduction that drew worldwide attention. Ed and Lois Smart (search) spoke to an AP reporter Tuesday to promote an upcoming initiative aimed at educating children about safety and self-defense called Partners in Safety.

"The joy and hope we felt last March is what we want to see for others," said Ed Smart.

On the anniversary, open houses are planned at police stations and city halls across Utah. The Utah Girl Scouts and radKIDS, which teaches self-defense tips, will be on hand to teach techniques to empower children, so that "when they're faced with situations, they can deal with them," he said.

For his family personally, March 12 is a "very rejoicing day."

"If I ever could have had a wish in my heart, getting her back is it," Smart said. "It's a moment in time I'll never forget."

Elizabeth was taken at knifepoint from her bedroom on June 5, 2002. Prosecutors say Brian David Mitchell, a drifter and self-styled prophet, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, held Elizabeth against her will as Mitchell's second wife at a crude campsite in the foothills above the Smart home until Oct. 8. They then took her to California before eventually returning to Utah, according to court documents.

She was spotted a week later with the couple in a Salt Lake City suburb.

Elizabeth, who was 14 at the time, doesn't dwell on the abduction, and only occasionally mentions it, her father said.

Recently, she came into his room, sat on the bed and remarked that exactly a year before, she hadn't eaten for a week.

But such reflections are rare, and the abduction is "the farthest thing from her mind," said Smart.

The family is not sure whether Elizabeth will testify if Mitchell, 50, is declared competent to stand trial.

A competency hearing was delayed until May because Mitchell's lead attorney recently stepped down from the case. In January, Barzee, 58, was found incompetent to stand trial and remains in custody awaiting a bed at a state mental hospital.

Both are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated burglary. They are also accused of a second, unsuccessful abduction attempt in July 2002 of Smart's cousin.

If a trial is postponed, that's just fine with the Smarts.

"The less she has to deal with them, the better off for her," said her father. The family has no day-to-day contact with the prosecution and often hears of movements in the case from news reports.

Elizabeth, a high school sophomore, has a job playing and tuning harps and has talked about possibly applying to New York's Juilliard School. She skis, goes to dances and, like any teenage girl, talks on the phone.

"That phone is nonstop," said her father, laughing.

The Smarts say they are more cautious than their daughter, but they've tried not to overly shelter her. But the point is moot because Elizabeth wouldn't tolerate special handling, said Lois Smart.

Elizabeth recently learned to drive -- "scaring the life out of us," her mother said, laughing -- and attended the Junior Prom last week, wearing a black lace dress with a pink lining.

"She is relishing being a 16-year-old and being out of the limelight," said her father, beaming.

Ed Smart doesn't know why exactly his daughter came back last March, but said he feels there's a real reason.

"In my heart of hearts ... Elizabeth came back because of all the prayers," he said, tears welling. "God answered a lot of prayers."