Mormon faithful gather in Utah to celebrate return of Smart

Monday, March 17, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY -- Mormon faithful gathered to pray Sunday at Elizabeth Smart's church, where her grandfather declared that the 15-year-old was so robbed of her free will by her captors that she didn't try to escape even when left alone for a day.

Her bishop called Elizabeth "pure before the Lord."

Smart's grandparents and uncle spoke to about 250 people gathered for the service where the family worships.

"As a doctor, it's amazing to me that you can become so brainwashed that you identify with your captor," grandfather Charles Smart said.

During her time with her abductors, "Elizabeth had the chance of escaping. One day she was completely by herself, but she didn't try to run away," he said. He did not elaborate.

Smart was snatched from her home June 5 and found by police Wednesday walking near Salt Lake City. Brian David Mitchell, a religious fanatic who did handyman work at the Smart house one day in November 2001, is suspected in the kidnapping, as is his wife, Wanda Barzee.

Those two remained in jail Sunday awaiting charges, expected to be filed today. Federal and local authorities, meanwhile, refused to comment on the investigation for a second straight day.

At the church service, Bishop David Hamblin said despite anything that may have happened during the ordeal, the teen is "pure before the Lord. People who are in the control of others are not accountable."

No details have been released about any abuse Elizabeth may have suffered while captive. The girl has been interviewed several times by police, but her parents have not asked her for details, according to a family spokesman.

Charles Smart asked church members to be sensitive as Elizabeth gradually returns to her old life.

"Elizabeth has been through hell, and prying into those things brings it back," he said. "We'd like to invite everyone to show love, comfort and support to Elizabeth. Let's give her some time, let her do this in her own way."

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