Once an accomplished organist in Salt Lake City, Wanda Barzee became a disturbing figure for members of her own family after helping with the abduction in 2002 of the then teenage Elizabeth Smart.
Days before the 72-year-old leaves prison, fears about whether she remains a threat and calls to keep her off the streets raise deep-seated questions about mental health treatment in the nation's prisons, he said. an expert.
And the details of the crime still horrify Barzee's niece, Tina Mace.
It just makes you sick. How can someone do that? she said.
Wanda Barzee, 64, is expected to be released next week after 15 years of pretrial detention, including time at the state hospital. She was sent to prison for her role in helping her husband kidnap and rape Elizabeth Smart, 14 (right)
She said that Barzee & # 39; saw me as her slave. She called me her maid. She never hesitated to let her discontent with me be known & # 39;
Her aunt played the organ at her wedding decades ago, before Barzee joined Mitchell while acting on his supposed revelations of God.
Like Smart, Mace is alarmed by the surprise announcement by Utah authorities this week that they had miscalculated her aunt's sentence and would be released from prison on September 19.
"As far as I know, no family can accept or accept it," said Mace.
Federal agents found a place to live when Barzee begins his five-year supervised release, said Eric Anderson, chief deputy chief of US probation. UU For Utah.
She declined to comment on whether she will be in a private home or facility, but "she will not be homeless," she said.
Barzee has served her 15-year sentence in a plea agreement in the year she testified against street preacher Brian David Mitchell, her then husband, who kidnapped the girl from her room at the point of a knife.
During her months in captivity, Smart said that the older woman sat nearby and encouraged her husband while raping the teenager.
Smart is now a 30-year-old activist and speaker who said on Thursday she is deeply concerned that Barzee remains a threat, citing her refusal to cooperate with mental health treatment in prison and reports that she can still harbor Mitchell's beliefs.
Smart asked the authorities to carefully consider whether the prisoners have been treated successfully before being released.
Attorney Scott Williams has said that Barzee has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, but he is not concerned that it is a danger to the community
But large-scale changes that require rehabilitation could raise troubling questions, said Rebecca Weiss, an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"We could imprison someone indefinitely who has served his sentence," he said.
The treatment of the disproportionate number of people with mental illnesses in US prisons UU., Many of which are not violent, is one of the biggest challenges of the system.
While it is necessary to protect the public, inmates also have the right to refuse treatment.
"The degree to which our prisons are successful in rehabilitation is questionable," Weiss said.
"We are putting a lot into a system that is overloaded with unclear objectives."
Repeated violent sex offenders can be civilly committed in the federal system, but that requires a series of evaluations and a judge's decision that they pose an imminent risk, Anderson said.
Barzee's lawyer has maintained that she is not a threat.
Attorney Scott Williams did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Prison officials refused to discuss their behavior behind bars or transmit an interview request.
Smart was kidnapped in her Salt Lake City room at the point of a knife by street preacher Brian David Mitchell, who entered through an open kitchen window. The kidnapping caused waves of fear across the country
She was treated at Utah State Hospital for approximately five years after her arrest. She testified in 2010 against Mitchell.
Barzee described a first "hellish" marriage that declined after she "learned to be submissive and obedient," and her later statement that it was "God's will" to sell her possessions and travel the country in long robes.
Eventually, Mitchell kidnapped Smart, who was then 14 years old, forced her into a & # 39; marriage & # 39; Polygamous and raped her almost daily.
It was found nine months later, while walking with Barzee and Mitchell on a street in the Sandy suburb of Salt Lake City.
Barzee's testimony against him seemed to be a turning point, but his mental state seems to have changed in his later years in federal and state prisons, Mace said.
Mitchell is serving a life sentence.
Recalling the captivity, Smart said Thursday that he believes the older woman who treated her as a "slave" and "slave" was sometimes manipulated by her husband.
"But she, in her own right, abused me as much as he did."
Smart was found while walking with Barzee and Mitchell (pictured above in 2010) on a street in the suburb of Sandy, Utah, by people who recognized the couple's media reports