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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Ed Smart

Aired June 4, 2003 - 20:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, in just one year a lot can happen. You just have to ask the family of Elizabeth Smart to learn that. It was, of course, one year ago tomorrow that 14-year-old Elizabeth disappeared from her suburban Salt Lake City home, kidnapped at knifepoint.
Tonight, though, on the eve of the anniversary of the abduction, she rests safely at home.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve looks back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fourteen-year- old girls do disappear, but rarely under circumstances like this.

Snatched from her bedroom in her parents' upscale home, a 9-year- old sister the only witness.

ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: You know, if you can hear me, Elizabeth is the sweetest girl. She's -- she's an angel. And I hope that -- there's no reason to take her. I just can't imagine why you took her to begin with.

MESERVE: Volunteers combed canyons and mountains. The search was massive, but fruitless.

In the early days, Elizabeth's large family was put under the microscope.

QUESTION: The family has not been eliminated then?

CHIEF RICK DINSE, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE: Nobody has been eliminated.

MESERVE: But eventually suspicion fell on Richard Ricci, a handyman with a long criminal record who had done work on the Smart home.

DINSE: He is very interesting and there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding his actions between May 31 and June 8 of this year.

MESERVE: Ricci was jailed on a parole violation and died in his cell a few months later of a brain aneurhysm. With his death, some thought the story of Elizabeth might never be known.

But then Mary Catherine Smart, the one witness to Elizabeth's abduction, recollected a face and a name: Emanuel, a transient, who for one day had worked for the Smarts.

The family distributed a sketch, and on a March day, he was recognized on a suburban Salt Lake street. With him? Elizabeth.

SMART: It's real! It's real!

MESERVE: Emmanuel, or Brian David Mitchell, his wife, Wanda Barzee and Elizabeth, who investigators say Mitchell had taken for a second wife, had lived in and around Salt Lake for much of Elizabeth's captivity. But no one recognized the young woman in the robes and veil as the young girl on posters and billboards.

Elizabeth has made few public appearances in the months since her return. But one was at the White House for the signing of legislation creating a national Amber Alert system, some thing which just might bring other abducted children back to the waiting arms of their families.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the two people charged in Elizabeth's abduction, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, are undergoing competency evaluations to see whether they'll be able to stand trial. Neither has entered a plea as of yet.

Now let's talk to the man that never gave up hope that Elizabeth would be found alive, safe and sound. Ed Smart is Elizabeth's father. He joins us live from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ed, thanks for being with us tonight.

SMART: Thank you.

COOPER: I guess the first question -- How's Elizabeth doing?

SMART: She is doing miraculously.

I mean, she -- I had one comment made by some one who said, you know, it just doesn't look like she's been affected by it. And you know, we just feel so thrilled to have her home and to see the usual family dynamics that used to be. It's wonderful.

COOPER: I don't want to pry too much, so, you know, if I do, just let me know. But how does she spend her days these days?

SMART: Well, you know, of course, she's playing her harp. She's also doing a couple of correspondence courses with a tutor. And, you know, she is helping us watch our youngest son. She plays with her friends. You know, she's off with some friends tonight seeing a movie. And she's doing all of those things that, you know, a 15-year- old you would expect to be doing.

COOPER: That's good to hear.

I heard she actually visited Juliard here in New York. Any chance, do you think -- or do you want her to go there?

SMART: You bet. She, you know, has really had an interest to visit Juliard and, you know, while we were back there about a month ago, she -- I took her over there and she was just thrilled. We had a tour and the administration -- they were wonderful. She met the harp professor there and had a great time and I think she hopes to end up there.

COOPER: And how do you deal with her ordeal, with what she went through? I know there had been a lot of talk about letting her sort of talk about it at her own pace. What has that pace been?

SMART: You know, sometimes it comes up and other times it doesn't.

Of course, we've got, you know, professional help. And, you know, he feels very, very good about how she's coming along. And we -- we couldn't be happier. I mean it's just so wonderful to be united as a family and I -- you know, when we got her back, I couldn't help but think about all the other families out there that don't have their children back. And, you know, that's what kind of got me a little emotional on the Amber Alert.

COOPER: There are so many families I've talked to, and often when a trial is coming up and they've experienced something like this, there are often sort of mixed emotions about that.

How are you and Elizabeth and the rest of your family sort of looking at that? Are you -- do you anticipate being very deeply involved? What are your thoughts at this point?

SMART: You know, right now they're doing there are evaluation and we don't know where this is going. So, you know, we put our lives on hold for so long and we're certainly not going to hold our breath to see what happens. You know, we are just taking every day at a time and enjoying it thoroughly. And we'll just have to see.

I don't think any parent out there would want to see their child, you know, go on the stand. But we just have to take it a day at a time.

COOPER: All right. Ed Smart, we'll leave it there. Thank you so much. Our best to your family. Thanks for being with us.

SMART: Let me just say that we just want to thank every one for their love and their support and for the incredible help that we received. We know that it made all the difference.

COOPER: All right. We'll leave it there. Thank you very much, Ed. Appreciate it.

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