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Elizabeth Smart Press Conference

Aired March 13, 2003 - 13:02   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: First the great news from Salt Lake City, where Elizabeth Smart has spent her first night at home since June. And two suspected abductors are spending this day behind bars.
In just a moment, we expect to hear from Elizabeth's parents. We'll be going to a live news conference in Salt Lake City. You can see the picture there.

As soon as the Smarts begin to speak, we will be going to that live.

Meanwhile, while we wait for that, we want to bring in our Mike Brooks. He is a former federal law enforcement official.

Mike, good to have you here with us.

This one, a win for law enforcement?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'd say so. They took some criticism as of late, but I think overall, the working together as a team, I think it came out pretty well. Some say it's good to be good, and it's good to be lucky.

KAGAN: Well you talk about that criticism, as late as yesterday, the day that she was found, an article critical from members of the Smart family themselves, saying, look to, the police department, you have given up on so many leads, and in the end, in fact, it was alert citizens who spotted these people, and it was the work of a television show, "America's Most Wanted."

BROOKS: It was, and overall, they've received since the case started last June, June 5th, 16,000 tips from citizens, and that's not including all of the investigative leads they've been following up on their own, and then it took a call from two separate women saying they saw who it was this guy, Emanuel, who is Richard -- this guy who says that he's the messiah and this kind of thing with two women recognized him from "America's Most Wanted" show. I think it's unbelievable.

KAGAN: Spotlight also in Washington D.C. You heard Elizabeth's Smart's father come out and say, come one, you need a national Amber Alert. Different states have it, but there's not one giant network. It's made its way to the Senate. It got stuck in the House. How could that have helped this time around?

BROOKS: Well, if they had the information about description of Elizabeth, which they did, or a description of the possible kidnapper, which they had shortly after that, and then maybe a vehicle description, they could have put that out on the Amber Alert system.

Right now, in the country, there are 88 different Amber Alert systems.

KAGAN: Which sounds like a lot of bueracratic confusion.

BROOKS: It is, and a lot of it right now is just voluntary, a voluntary program between the media and law enforcement. They put it out over the emergency alert system through radios, television stations, as well as the electronic sign boards that some states have right now.

You have about 34 local, 15 regional and 39 statewide programs right now. And right now -- but the Bush administration had taken a step in the Department of Justice to name a coordinator to try to bring all of this together, one Amber Alert coordinator within the Department of Justice, and that's also one of the things that the legislation that will be heard again today at the Judiciary Committee brings about, as well as $25 million granted to the department of...

KAGAN: Let me stand by. Sounds like the news conference is starting -- let's listen in.

DAVID FRANCONA, ELIZABETH'S UNCLE: I am thrilled to tell you that yesterday was the day we've been waiting for many months. Is the happy occasion. It was a thrilling reunion. We are so grateful to the world. We are grateful to everybody and all that they have done -- the searchers, the people who have looked and kept Elizabeth constantly on their minds, in their prayers. We are grateful that -- we know that God had her in his care, and we have placed her there.

We know the celebration continues today, and will continue for many, many weeks and months. Tomorrow, Friday, there is a celebration at Liberty Park. We'd like to invite everybody there. We will have music. There will be much cause for happiness. And, again, thank you.

Elizabeth is at home. She's with her mother, with her siblings. We want her to have privacy. We want her to have the opportunity to be reunited with her family. There are no plans for her right now to come out, make a statement or be in front of the media. I think we owe her the time and the distance.

Again, thank you. I think what we've seen is that good has conquered bad, and that good can continue. We look forward to having Elizabeth back with us.

And now I'd like to have Ed come and talk with you.

ED SMART, ELIZABETH SMART'S FATHER: It's real! It's real! I can't begin to tell you how happy I am. What an absolute miracle and answer to prayers this has been. God lives. He is there. He answers prayers. And the prayers of the world have brought Elizabeth home.

I am so thankful and so thankful and feel so blessed to have this miracle happen to us. I think of all of the hundreds of thousands of children that are out there, that are kidnapped and don't have this same blessing.

I have tried, most of you have heard me go on about the Amber Alert. I have still heard that the house is trying to bring the larger bill to the floor. I am asking them, I am pleading with them. I am asking all of the constituents of Wisconsin to call Jim Sensenbrenner, to know that this has got to come stand-alone legislation, that it is not something that can wait one more day.

Lives are lost, and the blood of those children is on someone's head. And when something can be done, something should be done. And I am asking, I am calling upon all of the Congressmen. I'm calling upon everyone out here in the United States to call your Congressman, tell them this legislation needs to come to the floor, standalone, and that you want it, and let them know and let them be accountable, because they are accountable to us, and they don't have the right to work on their own issues.

I am so grateful. I hate to go into that, but it's so important and critical.

I just want to thank -- I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family, a family that has stood by and helped, and worked to the extent of being crazy. But we have her back. And I just want to thank so many people out there.

There were a number of tips that came in yesterday. There was -- David Brian Mitchell's sister took great risk, came forward and helped us find that he was the person. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being willing to come forward. I knew that there was someone out there that knew something. And here we are today, and what an absolutely wonderful day it is. It is just -- Elizabeth is happy. She's well. And we are so happy to have her back in our arms. I hate even leaving her. I'm just always sitting there hugging her the whole time. Is this real? She's home.

And I think it just goes to show what an absolutely wonderful country we have. How many -- how much love, how much support is out there for children. And we need to let everyone know. We need to let Congress know that we can't wait. We just can't wait another day. That they need to be there for the people. When something can be done today, do it today. We can deal with the other things afterwards. I'm more than happy to help them. But I think this is something that we all need. This is a part of the celebration. I'm praying and hoping that they're going to get it through. And I think we finally got someone's attention.

But thank you so very much for your help. It has been your support, your help that has been able to get the pictures out, to get the public to help us. This was a public effort. And I'm just so very grateful. My heart is just full. I just can't thank you. I am just ecstatic.

QUESTION: Ed, was there something that the police here could have done earlier to make this happen?

SMART: You know, I believe some mistakes have been made, but I know that they were trying. Our whole focus was on trying to bring Elizabeth back. And I think that it's just so important that we've got Elizabeth back. That's what counts. I hope that some people have learned some lessons. Heaven only knows, every one of us learn lessons daily. I have learned plenty myself.

QUESTION: How has she changed today?

SMART: How has she changed today? Well, she is really a young woman. She is really a young woman. Last night, when we got her home, we did a few things. Everyone was pleading with her to get on the harp, and she struggled through a couple of pieces. She said, it's been nine months. But it was absolutely wonderful to hear her play. We spent some time together watching her favorite video, which is "Trouble With Angels." And it's just -- it's unbelievable.

QUESTION: What has she said about her ordeal over the last nine months?

SMART: You know, I think you've heard me in the past with Mary Katherine, that I have not tried to force things out of her, question her to pieces, and I feel the same way. I think that what is going to come out is going to come out, and I just -- I don't have it in me to try and make this harder than it is for her.

QUESTION: What has she said perhaps on her own?

SMART: She said that she had spent months right up here in the mountains, through August. I can't believe it.

QUESTION: Ed, did she know how many people were searching for her?

SMART: She had no idea, absolutely no idea. She saw a few pictures and she had heard that there had been one harp recital. But I am so grateful to have her back.

QUESTION: Did she hear people calling out for her?

SMART: She absolutely did. She heard people calling out for her. As you probably heard, it wasn't a gun that was there that night, it was a knife. He did come through the screen. The screen was cut from the outside! The screen was cut from the outside. And Emanuel came through that screen into the house. And he left by way of that door. And apparently, he had been watching her for quite some time.

QUESTION: Ed, how do you feel about this man you befriended, that you hired to work, and then he came into your house? How do you feel about that right now?

SMART: You know, I'm not even trying to go there because it hurts. I know that his family have been there, trying to help us. I appreciate that so much.

QUESTION: At any point did she try to escape? SMART: You know, I haven't even gone there yet. I don't know what her mindset was. I don't know what kind of hell she went through.

QUESTION: Did she see any of the media reports, Ed?

SMART: She didn't really see any media reports. She saw a few flyers. I asked her at one time, apparently after August, he had her all over the place. They were in San Diego for awhile, and I said, didn't you see any of the big posters on the freeway? And she didn't.

QUESTION: Anything about Florida or Atlanta?

SMART: I don't know about that.

QUESTION: How is Mary Katherine?

SMART: Mary Katherine, she is my hero. I just cannot get over -- I cannot get over that she was inspired to come forward on Emanuel. And I hope if there is one lesson to be learned, that when there is an eyewitness there, and thinks that it is someone, that it's not just one of 250, that person goes to the top of the list.

I'm so thankful for all the support, the love and the help we've had.

QUESTION: Have you thought of affecting Congress from the inside?

SMART: You know, I'm not -- I am definitely not going there.

Undoubtedly, I have no doubt about that.

QUESTION: Why do you say that?

QUESTION: What do you say to them, the people who called in?

SMART: I have told them I am so appreciative. It's the eyes of the public that helped us rescue her. I am absolutely overwhelmed with love and appreciation for their willingness to try to find her.

There's no question about it. There's no question. These types of people just shouldn't be out there. You know, I just -- I can't go there right now.

Yes, the police have talked to her.

She was. In fact, I came out once or twice. And while they were watching videos, she had been sitting in front of our bed with the other kids, and I went downstairs to make a phone call. And when I came back up, Lois was on the left hand, where she always is, and then Elizabeth was there and Mary Katherine was just kind of tucked in next to her, and she was asleep, and I sat on her and it's -- last night when I went into her room, you know, Mary Katherine and Elizabeth were holding hands, and I am just -- I'm overwhelmed.

QUESTION: No fear at all?

QUESTION: Did you credit Mary Katherine more than the police with bringing Elizabeth home?

SMART: There's no question. There's no question that Mary Katherine is our hero?

QUESTION: Do you have any idea on how she was brainwashed?

SMART: I don't know. I don't know any of that. I am just so grateful. I love her. I am so happy to have her back in our family. And I know that the police will handle things and you'll hear the bottom end of this, as I hope to hear.

QUESTION: Why didn't the police put the picture out sooner?

SMART: Tipsters, let me say that we still need help from people. We're still trying to establish a timeline. Now that, you know, we know what she looked like, we know what they looked like, people out there will remember having seen them. And we need those tips to still come in to help us form a timeline to get a grasp of everything that happened.

QUESTION: What else do you know about the past nine months?

SMART: You know, I know very little about the past nine months. I am so happy to have her home.

QUESTION: Any other stories she might have told you?

SMART: I don't know. I just -- I'm sure that we'll be forthcoming with a lot of information.

QUESTION: Does she have any fear for her life?

SMART: I have no doubt. I have no doubt that she did fear for her life that night as she left the room, not knowing what was going to happen to her and what her life would end up with.

QUESTION: When you went to the police station to get her, what was going through your mind?

SMART: You know, I don't know why, but I had the strangest feeling that I was going down there to try to identify Brian David Mitchell. And not in my wildest dreams was I anticipating walking into that room and seeing Elizabeth.

QUESTION: What did police say? Come here immediately?

SMART: Yes. Detective Parks, who is almost a part of our family, has been absolutely wonderful. I have to say -- I need to make this statement. There are tremendous law enforcement here in Salt Lake. The Salt Lake Police Department, the FBI, McFinnerty (ph), if you hear me, thank you.

And I think the important thing is that we just learned that people are human. We make mistakes, but we learn by our mistakes and we move forward.

QUESTION: What were they -- you mentioned one mistake the police made. Are there others -- or lessons learned.

SMART: I just think that this is -- this isn't something that happens every day, thank heavens. It isn't something that happens. We don't have, so to speak, professional kidnapping policemen. We don't, and so we do our best, and I believe that they tried to do their best. And the thing that has to happen, though, is there has to be open communication. When communication stops and local police departments cannot dictate what happens. FBI have to be there. They have to be able to play a very significant role, and together this is what happens. It's absolutely wonderful.

QUESTION: ... police stop listening to you, didn't want to hear from you anymore?

SMART: You know, I know that there was frustrations on both parts, but I just -- I think that they realize that Mary Katherine really had something to say. And that that was -- I heard from Cory Lyman yesterday who -- I love that man. He was a great friend, and he said, Ed, I have never been so glad to be wrong in my life, and I think that says it all.

QUESTION: Ed, do you have anything to say to Richard Ricci's family this morning?

SMART: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say to Richard Ricci's family this morning?

SMART: No. I feel sorry for Angela. I'm sorry that she lost Richard. We still have all these questions that were unanswered. Obviously, it was not Richard. So this is one thing that he was not responsible for. And Angela, I know you went through a lot, and I am very sorry, and I hope that -- I hope this at least gives you peace to know that he wasn't the one.

QUESTION: Has Elizabeth said anything about Emmanuel?

SMART: You know, she -- I really haven't gone into it with her. I just think that as time comes forward, the police have talked to her at length, and I'm sure that they will handle things in a reasonable manner and you'll hear what happens, and absolutely everything will come out.

QUESTION: Do you support...

QUESTION: Ed, can you talk about the role of faith -- your family's and Elizabeth's faith in this whole ordeal, and how it might have...

SMART: You know...

QUESTION: ... called himself Jesus? SMART: I have absolutely no idea. When I was up there on the roof with him, I never could have guessed. He was so soft spoken. He was so, so quiet. I would have never guessed that such an animal could exist behind a person that looked so reasonable.

QUESTION: Do you support the death penalty?

QUESTION: And your faith?

SMART: My faith? I thank my heavenly father. I know that he was there. I know that he saw our family through so many things, through so many issues. I have a stronger testimony than ever that he lives, that he cares about each one of us. This is a miracle. This is an absolute miracle. He has brought her back, and it has been because of prayers, because of love, because of a joining together across all lines, across all lines. And I'm just absolutely indebted to all of you for your love and support and your help in this case.


QUESTION: ... here for you and the family, was she told that you may be harmed in some way?

SMART: You know, I don't know. I haven't heard that from her. As I said, I haven't pried. I don't want to pry. I don't want to traumatize her any more than she has been. I am just so elated to have her back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can go up to the mike, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Smart?


QUESTION: Do you support the death penalty, sir?

QUESTION: Ed, you and your wife maintained all along that she was alive despite all of our doubts. Now looking back on that, how were you able to do that?

SMART: You know, I think I shared with a number of you a couple of dreams that I had about her coming, walking into our room and seeing her. And as much as what that dream meant, I didn't know. I had several times a feeling in my heart that she was out there. I talked with John, John Walsh back in December, at a point when I was very low, and I didn't know. I didn't know. How can time pass and you not know? But I prayed and I prayed, and I prayed that she was out there. And here she is. I am so grateful.


SMART: I could not believe it. I absolutely could not believe it. I saw her sitting there on the sofa. She was sitting there with her arms folded. I just went up and I just grabbed her and held her. I was crying and crying and crying. And I said, is it really you? And she said yes. And I just -- not many words were said, but a lot of emotion was felt. And I just can't thank enough those people who were willing to come forward with tips and otherwise to help us, and I thank you so much. Thank you.


QUESTION: What's up in the days and weeks ahead for Elizabeth and the family?

SMART: You know, we'll be in touch, OK?


SMART: You know, there's going to be a big press conference the police are putting on tonight, and I am sure that a lot of details about what happened may be forthcoming, and I just -- I am just so very grateful.

QUESTION: Mr. Smart, what can be done to get back Ricci's good name?

KAGAN: Well, I think we just heard some words from the man who could claim to be the happiest father in all of America, and with good reason. Ed Smart, the father of Elizabeth Smart, just about 24 hours after he was reunited with his daughter, nine months after she was kidnapped from their home in Salt Lake City.

He said it best. He said, it's real. She really is back. He gave a couple clues about where Elizabeth says she has been in the past month with the man who took her. In the mountains, very close to their home, at least through August, and then perhaps to San Diego. She had no idea or very little idea about the huge manhunt that was taking place all across America to try to find her, and he also said that he believes that his daughter was brainwashed in the months that she was in captivity.

Let's go ahead and bring Mike Brooks back in here to talk about the investigation here.

Ed Smart also made a very important point, asking -- praising, first of all, the tipsters that helped find his daughter, but also saying, this isn't over. They still need help in getting tips and trying to put together a whole case.

KAGAN: That's right. It's far from over. Those tips will help to develop a timeline of exactly where she was for which period of time, and if people do hear anything please let the people in Salt Lake City know.

Hopefully, we can get a number. Maybe the police will have a good -- a tip line that they can call to try to put together this timeline.

But it's far, far from over. I mean, we still don't know the motivation behind this. There apparently were never any ransom notes, no ransom demands. What was the reason for Brian David Mitchell taking Elizabeth Smart in the first place?

KAGAN: Absolutely. Some questions that perhaps we going to get answered -- he mentioned there is going to be a news conference later today.


KAGAN: As you said, you'll be working late tonight.

BROOKS: Yes, I will.


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