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Former street preacher sentenced to life in Smart case

Former street preacher sentenced to life in Smart case

May 25th, 2011 in News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Elizabeth Smart says she was thrilled with the two life sentences given to the man who kidnapped her from the bedroom of her Utah home nearly nine years ago.

Smart said at a news conference Wednesday after the hearing that she fully believes defendant David Brian Mitchell knew exactly what he was doing when he abducted and raped her, despite arguments by his lawyers for years that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.

She says the sentencing, which came on National Missing Children's Day, marks the end of a long chapter in her life as well as a beautiful new beginning.

She says she wants to work to help bring other missing children back to their families and see the abductors brought to justice.

"I know that you know what you did is wrong," Smart told Mitchell, who sang quietly in the courtroom. "You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned."

Dressed in a gray striped skirt and yellow blouse, Smart took the witness stand for only about 30 seconds and confronted her abductor in court for the first time since the abduction ended.

She appeared poised and composed, speaking in even tones without showing emotion as she directed her comments at Mitchell.

"I have a wonderful life," she said. "You will never affect me again."

Mitchell did not respond when U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball handed down two life sentences at the hearing in Salt Lake City.

A jury unanimously convicted the 57-year-old Mitchell in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex.

With long hair and beard, Mitchell looked frail and thin in court. He sang throughout the proceedings, even when the judge asked if he wanted to speak.

The prosecution had sought the life sentences. The defense waived its closing remarks.

Smart was 14 when she was snatched from the bedroom of her family home in Salt Lake City. Wednesday was the first time she faced her kidnapper in court; he was removed from the trial for singing hymns when she testified.

Now 23, she testified in excruciating detail about waking up in the early hours of June 5, 2002, to the feel of a cold, jagged knife at her throat and being whisked away by Mitchell to his camp in the foothills near the family home.

Within hours of the kidnapping, she testified, she was stripped of her favorite red pajamas, draped in white, religious robes and forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell. She was tethered to a metal cable strung between two trees and subjected to near-daily rapes while being forced to use alcohol and drugs.

The disappearance and a massive search to find the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl riveted the nation, as did her improbable recovery while walking with her captor on a suburban Salt Lake City-area street on March 12, 2003.

Smart was a steady, clear-voiced trial witness who never wavered with emotion, even as she described the horrific events of what she called her "nine months of hell."