Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Sammy Linebaugh reporting In an effort to retrace the steps of Elizabeth and her kidnappers these past nine months, police helicopters have focused on the hills just above Elizabeth's home. That's where Elizabeth has told police she spent the first three months after her abduction.
Thursday, police went three and a half miles up what's called Dry Creek. They searched an area they had looked at a few weeks ago, based on a tip from a mountainbiker -- a friend of Tom Smart's -- who said he'd seen Brian David Mitchell make camp up there before.
Elizabeth's Uncle Tom Smart said, "Not only did Mary Katerhine see him. Not only had my sister seen him that day, but he had been in those back woods for years. Pretty important information, so we passed that on -- and I know the police went up there in a helicopter, we gave them the gps coordinates because my friend gave them the gps coordinates, so they went right there."
Elizabeth's Uncle Tom Smart says Brian David Mitchell is now known to have spent spring and summer months for much of the past decade camping out in this backcountry. But it was only recently, after the public learned of his possible involvement in Elizabeth's disappearance, that Smart says his friend came forward.
"A friend who's a mountain biker had said 'Listen, I've seen him at this place, it's kind of a hobo camp and there's kindof a spring where they can go.'," Tom Smart said.
Hundreds of volunteer searchers and police had combed this mountain range in the days, weeks, even months following Elizabeth's abduction, but came up empty handed.
Elizabeth now tells her father, she was right there, within miles of home, until the weather turned cold.
Ed Smart said, "She said she had spent months right up here in the mountains through August. I can't believe it."
Ed Smart also says his daughter heard the ongoing search, but couldn't respond.
"She absolutely did," said Smart, "She heard people calling for her."
Tom Smart said, "I did not hear this out of her own voice, but I've heard this from credible people that she had heard her uncle Dave Francom during the search at one point, and she could not answer him, I don't know the specifics of what she was going through at that time, but we were very close to finding her very very early."
To be able to identify her uncle's voice gives us an idea of how close searchers were to finding her. You can imagine the hand ringing now, knowing she was literally a stones throw away so many months ago.
Police have not commented on what or if they found evidence actually linking Elizabeth to a specific location.