Elizabeth Smart Slowly Reclaims Her Life

Elizabeth Smart Slowly Reclaims Her Life

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Elizabeth Smart is spending a lot of time with her family and friends these days. She's going to church and making trips to the mall, though she's not back at school. Not yet.

While the 15-year-old slowly reclaims her life, her family has hired a lawyer to handle book and movie offers that have poured in ever since Elizabeth was found with a self-proclaimed prophet nine months after she vanished from her bedroom.

Family spokeswoman Missy Larsen said the Smarts expect to choose within the next two weeks who they want to tell the story of the teen's ordeal.

Last June, Elizabeth, then 14, was taken at knifepoint from her bedroom. She returned to her family March 12 after she was spotted in a Salt Lake City suburb with Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, the transients who have been charged with her kidnapping.

Mitchell, 49, and Barzee, 57, have been charged with burglary, kidnapping and sexual assault. They are each being held on $10 million bond and will soon undergo mental health evaluations.

Details of Elizabeth's ordeal have dribbled out slowly -- she was kept prisoner in the hills above her family's home, for example, and she and the two suspects were spotted in the San Diego area. But many details have been kept secret and the family has toned down its public profile.

When Elizabeth does venture out, she is recognized but not bothered.

"People are being very respectful," Larsen said. "She's definitely not going out alone anywhere."

Elizabeth would have been a high school freshman this year. She will be tutored at home through the summer and likely will attend East High School in Salt Lake City in the fall, Larsen said. She's also taking online courses.

"She'll catch up for next year," Larsen said.

The family has said they will not press Elizabeth to talk about her ordeal. As for a trial, Larsen said she has no idea what Elizabeth thinks of facing her two alleged captors in court.

"I do know that (parents) Ed and Lois want to protect her from any court proceedings," she said.

The Smarts recently hired Los Angeles entertainment attorney Kelly Crabb to help them screen more than 100 movie and book proposals about Elizabeth's abduction and remarkable return. Crabb attended nearby Brigham Young University.

"It comes down to an opportunity to tell the story or watch someone do an unauthorized version," said Chris Thomas, another family spokesperson.

Reward money for information leading to Elizabeth's whereabouts and safe return has reached $295,000. A spokeswoman for the mayor said 29 people have filed claims or been nominated for shares of the money pledged by private donors and the FBI.

At least two people outside the family have nominated Elizabeth's sister, Mary Katherine, for the reward money. If that happens, the family is expected to donate it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Mary Katherine was in the same room with Elizabeth the night she disappeared. Several months later, she told her family and police that the man who took her sister sounded somewhat like Mitchell, who had helped repair the Smarts' roof in November 2001.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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