Elizabeth Smart has called the decision to release Wanda Barzee, the woman who helped kidnap her in 2002, “incomprehensible” after a parole board's surprise ruling.  

Ms Smart said in a statement she was “surprised and disappointed” about the parole board’s decision to release Barzee from prison on 19 September. 

The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole had initially denied Barzee’s early release in July, but reversed their ruling in a decision announced on Tuesday. 

"It is incomprehensible how someone who has not cooperated with her mental health evaluations or risk assessments and some who did not show up to her own parole hearing can be released into our community,” Ms Smart said. “I am trying to understand how and why this is happened and exploring possible options."

The parole board had previously declined to set a date for Barzee's early release and had decided to not include her eight years in federal prison as time served on state charges. She was sentenced to a 15-year sentence in federal prison but had also pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges in state court. 

Ms Smart was abducted from her home in 2002 by Brian David Mitchell, a former street preacher, who worked with Barzee to keep Ms Smart captive for nine months before she was found and rescued. Ms Smart, now 30, was tortured while in captivity.

Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison, which he is serving in an Arizona.

The board had previously denied Barzee's early parole after she did not attend a June parole hearing. The board said at the time that Barzee refused to take a psychological exam; it was initially ruled she would be released in January 2024. But offiicials have recently determined they miscalculated the time Barzee had previously served in federal custody. 

"Upon further review and advice from legal counsel, the board must count time spent in federal custody toward Ms Barzee’s state sentence," wrote Greg Johnson, director of administrative servicesaccording to the Salt Lake Tribune.