SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah father of Elizabeth Smart said he's horrified by the parallels between the latest abduction story to grip the nation and his own daughter's long journey with an alleged kidnapper.
Snatched at knifepoint from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, then 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kept by a street preacher for nine months in 2002 and 2003 as he drifted around, wintering at a homeless camp near San Diego, Calif., prosecutors say.
She was spotted walking along a busy street in a Salt Lake City suburb in March 2003 with her alleged captors, all dressed in robes. Her father reunited with her at a police station. At home, she had to adjust to her lost family.
"I remember the day Elizabeth was found, how wonderful that was. There are a lot of concerns about how we would move forward, and she's done just amazingly well," Ed Smart told AP Radio on Friday.
Like Jaycee Lee Dugard, found this week after an abduction that lasted nearly two decades, the suspect's wife was apparently complicit in the alleged crime.
In both cases, the accused abductor seems to have been motivated by religious extremism, Ed Smart said.
"It makes you angry that anyone would use God as an excuse to rationalize their predatory behavior," he said.
He said he had one reaction after hearing of Dugard's reunion with her family after being found in California this week.
"Another miracle. She survived 18 years and is now out of the hands of this monster. It's wonderful to hear of another rescue, another survival," he said.
Elizabeth Smart, now 21, is studying for a music degree at Brigham Young University.
"A psychologist once said to me, 'It's really almost like being born again. You have to re-establish a bond with Elizabeth,"' her father said Friday. "Finding those things she loves and enjoys helps her move forward — finding things that will become her passion and allow her to put the past behind her."
The Smart case has taken a meandering, six-year journey in state courts with no resolution.
Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, have been deemed incompetent to stand trial. Both are being held indefinitely on multiple state charges, including kidnapping and sexual assault.
Mitchell was indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2008 on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. Federal prosecutors hope to get a competency hearing sometime this fall.
Doctors have said Barzee, 63, claims to receive messages from God through her television and is delusional.
Mitchell, 55, has been diagnosed with another delusional disorder and has frequently disrupted court proceedings by singing hymns. He once yelled to a judge to "repent."
Dugard's alleged captors, 58-year-old Phillip Garrido and 54-year-old Nancy Garrido, pleaded not guilty Friday to a total of 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment. They allegedly kidnapped her from a street in South Lake Tahoe, Nev.
Ed Smart said he was baffled by reports that Phillip Garrido has a long rap sheet, including a conviction for kidnapping a 25-year-old woman in 1976.
"How many times is a person allowed to do such horrible atrocity and get away with it? I mean, it's just amazing," he said. "There isn't a way in the world that he should be let out again."