NORTH PORT, Fla. - Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped for nine months when she was 14 years old by a street preacher and his wife, said Wednesday that it is "heartbreaking" knowing what Gabby Petito likely went through in the days and weeks leading up to her death.
"In Gabby's case in particular, I mean, I was alive, and I came home, and hers tragically has not ended that way," Smart, who is now a victims' rights activist, said on the show "Red Table Talk." "But knowing what it's like being on the other side and potentially what may have happened and what may have led up to her final moments, and understanding probably a lot of what she was feeling, it's heartbreaking."
Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee in 2002. She was held in captivity and raped by Mitchell for nine months, before being rescued by police officers on a street in Sandy, Utah, about 20 miles from her home.
One of her kidnappers, Barzee, was released from prison on parole in 2018 after serving 15 years in prison. Smart said Wednesday that she was disappointed in Barzee's release but thankful that she got some measure of justice.
"I was disappointed, but it also helped me have a greater appreciation for how many victims never even have a smidgen of justice. Their perpetrators walk every day free," she said. "Like, at least I got something. How many more haven’t?"
People worldwide have been captivated by the Gabby Petito case, and her family has thanked everyone for bringing awareness to the 22-year-old's disappearance, but loved ones are also asking people to direct their attention to the thousands of other missing person cases that are still active.
"It should continue for other people, too. This same type of heightened awareness should be continued for everyone ― everyone," Joseph Petito, Gabby's father, said at a press conference on Sept. 22.
"It’s on all of you, everyone that’s in this room, to do that. If you don’t do that for other people that are missing, that’s a shame, because it’s not just Gabby that deserves that."
At the end of last year, the FBI's National Crime Information Center counted nearly 90,000 active missing persons cases.
"It’s a massive problem. Every 90 seconds, a person goes missing," Smart said Wednesday. "Just in the time that we’ve been sitting here chatting, there are people who have already gone missing."
While Barzee was released from prison three years ago, Smart was confident that Brian Mitchell will never escape his life sentence.
"He will never get out. He's in federal prison. There's no chance of parole," Smart said Wednesday.