On Elizabeth Smart

An interesting revelation from the federal trial of Elizabeth Smart's accused kidnapper Brian David Mitchell:

Elizabeth Smart, whose 2002 kidnapping captivated Americans, told jurors Tuesday how a Salt Lake City police detective tried to see behind her veil but backed down when the man accused of kidnapping her said her face was hidden for religious reasons.

"I was mad at myself, that I didn't say anything," she said on her second day of testimony... "I felt terrible that the detective hadn't pushed harder and had just walked away."

...The close call happened months after her abduction.

The detective had approached a robed Ms. Smart sitting at a library table and asked if he could look under the veil she wore across her face.

"He said he was looking for Elizabeth Smart," Ms. Smart said.

Under the table, Mr. Mitchell's wife at the time, Wanda Eileen Barzee, squeezed Ms. Smart's leg — a sign, Ms. Smart said, that she should remain quiet.

Mr. Mitchell stood between Ms. Smart and the detective.

"He said that it was not allowed in our religion and that only my husband would ever see my face." she said.

The detective pressed.

"He asked if he could be a part of our religion for a day, just so he could see my face, just so he could go back (to the police station) and say, ‘no it wasn't Elizabeth Smart'," she said.

Mr. Mitchell remained cool and calm, stating again firmly that it would not be allowed. The detective gave up and left...
Police work resembles baseball. 

As an officer, sometimes you will swing and hit a home run on a case--catch the law-breaker, recover the loot, rescue the victim, etc. 

But, along with the balls that sail over the fence, there are times in every career you will strike out and miss a golden opportunity.

You feel horrible, but have to learn from your mistakes and better prepare so that you reduce the chances for an error in the future.

As a guest blogger for the talented Raindog this summer, I discussed one of my law enforcement strikeouts in a post entitled Failing Floyd: A Life Lesson.

Failure happens.

How we respond to it shows our character.   

Note: I initially saw the article for this post on the blog: Because No One Asked.


Holly said...

It is amazing to think someone was "that close" to discovering her. Everyone, especially law enforcement has to walk such a fine line...if he would have pressed, and it was not her, he runs the risk of being sued or chastised for not respecting someone's religon. Police work is one of the most difficult lines of work and getting harder and harder as time goes on.

Brian Miller said...

scary to be that close....and so far away....

Bob G. said...

After 58 years on this good Earth, I've come to believe that there are no REAL failures...only setbacks that can (through diligence and persistence) be worked through and turned around.

Success can be measured on many levels, and it's not always that "grand slam", like you said...

It can be as simple as a "ground-rule double" that gets the job done, or even that "sacrifice bunt"...

Good take on policing.

Stay safe.

Janna Qualman said...

Oh my gosh. It's heartbreaking. Even as one who believe "everything happens for a reason," there's some hard stuff to think past in that circumstance.

So thankful Elizabeth is found and safe and trying to move on. She is so brave.

Audrey Allure said...

It's true that we all make mistakes, but it does hurt more when a golden opportunity is missed.

Mommy Lisa said...

I like how Holly summed it up. It is a TOUGH line of work.

Hilary said...

The details of her story are just heartbreaking.

obladi oblada said...

Wow. Just goes to show that sometimes a gut instinct can be an officer's best friend. I wonder if he could have gotten a search warrant to look at her face. Lol..I dont see why not. That poor detective, Im sure he thinks about that day and the "what ifs" a lot.

Travel Nurse Extraordinaire said...

I can't even begin to imagine the frustration she must have felt.

You said it best. "Failure happens. How we respond to it shows our character. "

I can't wait to check out your guest blog later.

terri said...

I can't imagine the frustration and anger she must have felt at not speaking up. I can't imagine the feelings the officer must have experienced when he learned he missed a chance to save her.

Angelia Sims Hardy said...

I read the story on true crime TV. It is so astounding. I am glad she is speaking out at the trial. The details were pretty hush for so long. I think more than that officier ran across her or spotted her during her abduction. I'm sure the man was very convincing in his stance. Not to mention, a lot of people believed if she saw help she would run for it and didn't. No one knew how controlled she was.

BobKat said...

I read the same article before seeing it here, but seeing that you brought it up, I feel I want to add my opinion.

I understand, in any profession there are missed opportunities, failed efforts, regrets.

In this case I am struck by the detective's "alleged" suspicion that under the veil was Elizabeth Smart.

Honestly, I don't understand why the detective "backed down"? Ms. Smart's account clearly suggests the detective was suspicious, and the detective in my opinion had the long arm of the law to press forwards. If the detective had suspected drugs, I have no doubt the suspect standing between him and Ms. Smart would have been searched, the truth uncovered.

My point: This is an example of where our public safety priorities need a complete over-haul. Tar and feather me, but suspicion of marijuana trumps suspicion of Ms. Smart every time. And that's not right.

A kidnap victim doesn't "smell of the scent of dirty socks"... but that doesn't mean the detective should have backed down. In the same respect, if something has to smell like pot to be investigated, there's something wrong with law enforcement priorities.

Elizabeth Smart could have been murdered like thousands of victims have been, all because a veil that didn't smell separated a detectives sense of concern from pushing forwards. According to Ms. Smart's testimony, the detective was seriously involved in a "hunch..."

And the hunch was correct!

We need to return to a country where law enforcement serves and protects, and less a country where
"harmless" deviants are the focus of search, seizure and enforcement.

Elizabeth Smart is lucky to be alive! She is also a prime example of why we need to rethink our priorities as a nation.

I've never encountered a detective who would back down if marijuana was suspected... and that's my point! So "tar and feather me".

joanny said...

It makes one 'heartsick' to think we all have done something like that when we did not press and walked away in our lives, perhaps we could have helped, whether it was a street person needing help or a runaway - or an animal starving in the streets.

Elizabeth obedient child - kept her in a passive state -- I see being played out in the schools with our controlling children instead of teaching them how to take care of themselves, I will not go into details here, but this message from Elizabeth is an important one for us to learn from in the way we raise our children and the vulnerable nature in our society.


BobKat said...

Thank you Joanny...

I believe you grasp the truth. Your point well said.

Too much "public education is possibly expended on exerting control over "children", rather than "teaching them survival".

I believe that is Joanny's message. And I would agree.

Momma Fargo said...

Very interesting trial indeed.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Big sigh! i've followed the trial a little bit, all I keep saying is "that poor girl". I hope she gets justice.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

I have always followed Elizabeth Smart, I am forever amazed by her and her Dad. Seriously, she is such a beacon of hope for survivors of severe trauma and I just can't sing her praises enough. Especially when I read about her demeanor while she was on trial... it's amazing, love, love, love her. Back to the officer, I imagine that would be hard to live with but again, we are all human and his intentions were good. You are right to say it's how we respond to them.

jodeeluna said...

Thanks for the informative post. I find these stories intriguing and like to follow your featured pieces. Funny thing, my ex-husband used to pinch me under the table when he wanted me to shut up. Yuck...glad that is over.

kcinnova said...

I read this last week. That young woman has been through so much.

LisaF said...

Oh, and how different life would have been if she had spoken up that day and took the opportunity to throw off her veil and show herself. The door was open, but I'm sure she was terrified at the time.

Bob Messer said...

I feel for both Ms Smart and this officer. I bet, at some level, she and the officer will second-guess themselves for a long time.

Yet, failure is not final. I like your baseball analogy.

One has to step back into the box and wait for their pitch.

malone8 said...

I think it's time for our country to put saving lives first.

We must stop tying the hands of law enforcement so they can do their job.

The detective should have been able to tell the man to remove the veil or he would.