Family, police reflect on finding Elizabeth Smart on 10-year anniversary

Posted at 7:12 PM, Mar 12, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY -- Ten years ago on Tuesday, Elizabeth Smart was found alive and well in Sandy after her abduction arrested the nation's attention.

Her abductors are behind bars, and Smart is now happily married, a tireless advocate for child protection issues and an author—A memoir regarding her abduction is coming out later this year.

The nine-month search for Smart was a painful ordeal for her family. Ten years later some of those closest to the case shared their experiences.

Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart’s father, said he doesn’t like to dwell on the past, but it’s impossible for him not to reflect on the events of March 12, 2003 he said.

"I mean 10-years has gone by in a blink,” he said. “It's great to see where we've come from as a family."

Ed Smart also expressed his thanks to those who helped bring his daughter home.

"Today the reflection is on gratitude, for all of those who put so much time in, law enforcement, the community..” he said.

The ordeal for Elizabeth Smart and her family began when she was kidnapped at knife-point from the Smart’s Salt Lake City home.

"Those 9-months were a living nightmare,” Ed Smart said.

The beginning of the end for the Smarts came when four Sandy City police officers responded to a pair of possible sightings of Elizabeth Smart. Ed Smart said these moments were very surreal for him.

Capt. Bill O’Neal, Sandy City Police Department, was there when Elizabeth Smart was found, and he said the event was shocking.

"Because like everyone else throughout the valley, it had been nine months, and our hopes of locating her were greatly diminished,” he said.

LT. Vic Quezada, Sandy City Police Department, said when they responded to calls they knew there was something off about the young girl in a wig and glasses who initially gave her name as Augustine and was with much older companions. Quezada said he got a missing persons poster for Smart to compare.

"And we held it right up to her face, and there was no denying it, no mistaking,” Quezada said. “Me and Bill looked at each other and said: 'That's you.'"

Some people call the two officers heroes for their role in Elizabeth Smart’s rescue, but they both say they were just glad to help.

"We were just glad we could be a part of bringing her home to her family, and it's made me happy to see her succeed and continue on with a normal life,” O’Neal said.

"And it all fell into place for everybody and we're really happy to be part of that," Quezada said.

Elizabeth Smart was reunited with her family, but the drama continued as years of legal proceedings followed. It wasn’t until 2010 that Elizabeth Smart’s kidnappers—Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee—were convicted of the crime.

Law enforcement personnel said before the Elizabeth Smart case less than a dozen states had Amber Alert programs.  Paul Murphy, Utah Attorney General’s Office, said the program is now nation-wide.

"Every state has an Amber Alert program, and more than 600 children have been saved,” he said. “I think the entire nation owes a debt of gratitude to what happened to Elizabeth Smart because it brought so much attention to the plight of missing and abducted children."

Ed Smart said he believes the community played a big role in his daughter’s rescue.

"The prayers from so many, it made all the difference and we're grateful and couldn't be happier."

Elizabeth Smart’s book “My Story” will be out in bookstores later this year.