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Police Confirm Elizabeth Smart's Accused Kidnapper is a Suspect of a Break-in at a Relative's Home

Aired March 14, 2003 - 17:36   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to that news conference in Salt Lake City now, which is about to begin.

AARON KENNARD, SALT LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF: Once it was known that there was a relationship between this home and the Smarts, I contacted the Salt Lake City Police Department and the FBI. And they also responded to the scene with my detectives.

Further investigation led to nothing that would tie the scene to the Elizabeth Smart disappearance. The only situation we had was a tie with relationships between the Elizabeth Smart family and this family on Virginia Hills (ph) Drive.

At the time of this attempted burglary call that we received at approximately 3:30 in the morning, the closest clue of any tie was the way a window screen had been cut for attempted entry into the residence. The residence on the Virginia Hills Drive had been cut in similar fashion to what had been done at the Elizabeth Smart residence. However, it was very clear that there had been no entry made on the Virginia Hills residence.

I'll share with you that my crime lab responded, along with my detectives, to this situation. We processed the scene and we also asked for the state crime lab to assist us in processing this scene. Evidence was well protected. But that evidence is now being evaluated because of the recovery of Elizabeth Smart.

We have evidence. And we are presenting this evidence to the district attorney and the U.S. attorney as we speak to try and tie the perpetrators of the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping to the attempted burglary that took place on the Virginia Hills of July of 2002. I believe that we have solid information and solid leads that could connect the two households and the perpetrators of the two households together.

Because of the relationships that I've mentioned to you between the two households, a complete canvassing of the neighborhood was done with my canine, with air support unit, and as well as with detectives. No leads at this time in July were developed to indicate anybody that we knew of, other than the possibility of youngsters in the neighborhood either doing vandalisms or thefts. That was the extent of what we were able to develop at the time. Having said that, this is the extent of what I am prepared to share with you today in regards to the Virginia Hills case. I am indeed having detectives present it to the district attorney and to the U.S. attorney for possible criminal charges. I hope to have that done by Monday, at the very latest Tuesday. At that time, you will have available to you the probable cause statement that we hope to present to you.

QUESTION: What charges are (OFF-MIKE)

KENNARD: We are charging -- we are probably going to update and amend the complaint from attempted burglary to attempted kidnapping.

QUESTION: Do you have a motivation for this?

KENNARD: I can't share with you the motivation. I wish I knew.


KENNARD: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Who do you think was the intended kidnap victim?

KENNARD: Well, the evidence at the time was, the cousin of Elizabeth Smart was in the room. And I believe that the situation was foiled because, naturally, they wanted this crime to be one of a crime of stealth. And the individual, the perpetrator of the crime, was discovered.

So having said that, whoever was disturbed in the bedroom probably scared


QUESTION: Sheriff, what evidence do you have to tie the two together?

QUESTION: Are you basically saying that you believe Mr. Mitchell was trying to commit another kidnapping at this residence similar to the Smart kidnapping?

KENNARD: I cannot share with you that specifically. The evidence that we have developed since Elizabeth has been recovered and in interviewing suspects and developing evidence with Salt Lake City P.D. and with the FBI has led us to believe that the perpetrators of the Elizabeth Smart situation also had something to do with this case.

QUESTION: Could I ask one follow-up? Was there any information that helped you come to this conclusion? Did any of that come from Elizabeth Smart's interview with Salt Lake authorities?

KENNARD: I cannot share that with you. The evidence that my detectives, in cooperation with Salt Lake City and the FBI, has led us to go to the district attorney to present this case to them, I cannot share that with you.


QUESTION: Did she give any kind of visual on the person or whatever was trying to come through the


KENNARD: No, there was no visual on the burglary attempt at the time. There was nothing that we had to go on at that time.

QUESTION: Sir, what is the evidence that links the two? Is it fingerprints? What is the actual evidence?

KENNARD: That I can share with you. You will have that Monday when and if the district attorney and the U.S. attorney feel that we have strong enough evidence to proceed with a complaint.

QUESTION: Was Mr. Mitchell interviewed? Was Mr. Mitchell interviewed by investigators?

KENNARD: I can't share that with you. You can assume that he probably was.

QUESTION: What about Elizabeth herself?

KENNARD: I can't speak to that.

QUESTION: How would Mr. Mitchell have found out about Elizabeth Smart's cousin? Do you have any sense of how...

KENNARD: That's part of the evidence that we'll be presenting.

QUESTION: Do you have -- without telling us whether or not -- what it is, do you have forensic evidence? Do you have what you believe are fingerprints from the perpetrator from the incident?

KENNARD: I cannot share with you the evidence that we'll be presenting to the district attorney. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Sir, can I ask you a question? Why was this not an aggravated burglary with the call that came in? Because, from what I understand, the police report said that there was a thin object that came through the blinds that looked somewhat like a knife. Wouldn't that make it aggravated?

KENNARD: Well, it would, unless, of course, the situation was one of a -- if it were a knife, it could be aggravated. That's correct.

QUESTION: At the time, did you think in any way that it was connected to Elizabeth Smart, in terms of it related to how she was abducted or anything like that? How was it treated at the time?

KENNARD: At the time, it was treated as an attempted burglary. And when we determined that there was a relationship between the two families, we immediately, in the back of our minds, felt that there was a possibility they were related. Let's make sure that Salt Lake City is involved, the FBI is involved in this. We're trying to make sure that we don't leave anything unturned at that time.

But tonight -- because -- we worked very closely with Salt Lake City P.D., as well as the FBI, for a good two weeks after that in trying to develop this case. And nothing came about.

QUESTION: Sheriff, without talking about the evidence specifically, do you have evidence from the scene, from the house or from the yard, that also points to Mitchell as being the perpetrator?

KENNARD: I can't share that with you, Brian (ph).

QUESTION: How soon do you expect charges on this?

KENNARD: I expect the district attorney to finish screening this with my people probably Monday afternoon, at the very latest Tuesday.

QUESTION: Will they be filed separately from the charges for the original kidnapping?

KENNARD: I can't tell you that either. I don't know. This is probably going to be an entire situation with the district attorney and the U.S. attorney and the Salt Lake City P.D. We are just a small part of that investigation. We are simply trying to is assist them in the overall picture of the entire situation.

QUESTION: How conclusive do you feel the evidence is in this case, without telling us what the evidence is?

KENNARD: Well, I am quite confident in my investigators and in Salt Lake City and the FBI that the evidence that we have developed would prompt us to take us to this level. If I was not confident, I would not allow my people to take it to the district attorney.

QUESTION: Were there scents picked up by dogs in the area that night?

KENNARD: There were, but they didn't lead anywhere, because we had -- as I mentioned earlier, we had a group of juveniles that were in the neighborhood as well that night committing some vandalism, some acts of theft, and just raising havoc in the neighborhood.


QUESTION: Sorry. Had there been any other attempted burglaries in this neighborhood at all in the past?

KENNARD: There has not. And we have worked at that pretty strong.

QUESTION: I know you can't talk specifically on evidence, but was there any discussion made of Mitchell's religious beliefs? Was there a discussion into the motivation? Was that scenario looked at?

KENNARD: Well, rest assured, my detectives have -- I'm hoping, have not left any stone unturned in regards to motive, because they are going to have to present to the district attorney and to the U.S. attorney the motives. If we end up getting a complaint against anybody, part of that is, why would this individual, he or she, or they, commit this crime?

The motive, I am hoping they have not left anything out, including religious or otherwise.


KENNARD: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Would Wanda face charges or only...

KENNARD: Well, we are not discounting anybody.

QUESTION: Did anyone in the neighborhood see anything? I know that you said that the blinds, I believe, were closed, and so the person inside the room, a young woman, was not able to see.

KENNARD: She was not able to see anything. And in canvassing the neighborhood, nobody saw anything either, visual, eyes-on, somebody.

QUESTION: Did they hear anything, Sheriff?

KENNARD: There were people that heard things. And, again, it relates back to the vandalism that was going on in the neighborhood.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that you developed a lot of your information this week?

KENNARD: Well, to open it up, absolutely. Once Elizabeth Smart came on board, once she was recovered, and we assisted, that has helped us to develop some additionally.


QUESTION: ... and urge you to pursue this?

KENNARD: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Did Elizabeth Smart's family get in touch with you after this attempted break-in and urge you to pursuit the case further?

KENNARD: We have been in touch with the city and with the entire investigative unit. There has been nobody pushing me individually, no.


QUESTION: Can you describe the relationship between Elizabeth Smart and her cousin, how close, that kind of thing?

KENNARD: I can't share that with you. I'm not sure that I know.

QUESTION: Sheriff, can you walk us through it? What actually occurred at the scene? And how were the people inside alerted to a potential break-in?

KENNARD: Well, the best -- and you have a copy of the case in front of you, the initial case report, that indicated that, at approximately 3:30, there was a disturbance outside the cousin's window. And there was a noise made, either breaking of wood or of a cutting of a screen, or something of that nature. And she sees it.

The parents hear a noise. And, of course, they call 911 and say, we think something's happened. They let their dog out. They go to check. There's nothing there. So this is basically what took place, what prompted the 911 call to us.

QUESTION: There was a screen cut as well, right?

KENNARD: Yes, that's correct.

QUESTION: And then something inserted through a window?

KENNARD: That's correct. And she's not sure, or they're not sure whether it was a knife or some sort of instrument that could have cut the screen, come in to try to jimmy a window or a screen open.

I'll take one more question and then I'm through. That's it?

QUESTION: Had you received any other information there were sightings of Mitchell or three people (OFF-MIKE) that have been out there in that neighborhood prior or since?

KENNARD: No, no, no.

QUESTION: Sheriff, did you want to comment at all on the (OFF- MIKE) Mitchell, the domestic violence case? (OFF-MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, he hasn't seen it.

KENNARD: No, I'm not prepared to speak to that.


KENNARD: Nice try.

Thank you. If you need anything more, I'm going to pawn you off on to my PIO, Peggy Falconer (ph). Thank you for coming by. Hopefully, we at least..

BLITZER: That was Sheriff Aaron Kennard of Salt Lake County in Utah, revealing details of an intriguing development.


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