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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- In the hours after Elizabeth Smart disappeared in the middle of the night last June, hundreds of searchers combed the canyons behind the Smarts' home, calling for her, looking for any sign that she had passed that way. She heard them.
"She heard her uncle David Francom call her but she was not able to respond to him," another uncle, Tom Smart, said Thursday morning. "I don't know why."
She also saw the powder blue ribbons -- her favorite color -- that festooned fences, stop signs and power poles.
"We said, those were for you, sweetheart," Smart said. "She just smiled. She's in shock. She's been in the hands of a very sick person."
As the Smart family and the rest of the state that searched for the girl for nine months begin piecing together what has happened, Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were being held Thursday in the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, said Kent Morgan, Salt Lake County's deputy district attorney.
Elizabeth was found Wednesday with the couple when sharp-eyed residents led police to the 15-year-old, who was alive and healthy and walking down a suburban street with the mysterious drifters who believed they were prophets chosen to preach to the homeless.
Months earlier, Elizabeth's 10-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, had told her parents she thought the man they knew as Emmanuel could be the kidnapper.
Last month, Emmanuel was identified as Mitchell.
As her tearful parents embraced their daughter Wednesday afternoon, investigators began trying to answer the questions on everyone's minds: How was Elizabeth taken? Where did she go? What kept her from crying out for help even as she roamed the streets just minutes from her home?
Formal charges haven't yet been filed against Mitchell or Barzee. Federal and Salt Lake County investigators and prosecutors were to meet Thursday morning, Morgan said, to begin sifting through "a great deal of information" before deciding what charges should be filed and in what jurisdiction, federal or state.
Morgan said he expected no decisions for several days.
Investigators believe Elizabeth was taken out of Utah, Morgan said. Prosecutors have 72 hours from the time the couple was booked to charge them. They can ask a judge for more time if the case is complicated, he said.
Police in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy arrested Mitchell and Barzee after getting calls a minute apart from two couples who saw a man and two females wearing bedraggled veils and carrying bedrolls and bags. Elizabeth, Barzee and Mitchell were all wearing wigs when they were stopped, authorities said.
Ed Smart said Thursday that he had not asked his daughter for details about her nine months away from home.
"Physically she's OK," he told CBS's "The Early Show". "I know that she's been through brainwashing. For her to have gone through the past nine months has just been horrible, absolutely horrible."
Smart family spokesman Chris Thomas said Elizabeth hadn't been able to get away. "She said there was no way, she had two people with her at all times."
Mitchell, a self-styled prophet for the homeless, and Barzee were taken to the Sandy police station and later booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. Mitchell, who had worked briefly at the Smarts' home, was also being held on an outstanding warrant for retail theft.
Barzee's stepdaughter, Louree Gayler, was 12 when her mother married Mitchell. She said they prayed for hours and expected her to do the same, and that she felt uncomfortable and went to live with her father after three years.
"There could have been a little bit of a brainwashing, they're very good at that," Gayler told NBC's "Today" show. "Or there could have been drugs involved."
She said Elizabeth may have been kidnapped to "give my mom back something she lost" when Gayler left home. "Elizabeth resembles me at 15," she told the Tribune.
Asked if her stepfather was sexually abusive, she said there were "hugs, kisses that were kind of uncalled for" and she was sometimes uncomfortable with the way he stared at her.
"He shot a dog in front of us, made me eat my own rabbit for dinner, things like that," she told "The Early Show."
Rudy and Nancy Montoya had spotted Mitchell walking with two people in Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb, and Rudy Montoya said he recognized the man from television reports.
The Montoyas called police just as Anita and Alvin Dickerson drove past the trio, had the same thought about Mitchell and stopped their car. Anita said she walked up to the man and looked him in the eye.
"I knew it was him from the pictures I had seen on television," she said.
What she didn't realize was that the veiled person walking between the two adults was Elizabeth. "I thought she was an older lady wearing a scarf," Dickerson said.
Sandy Police Chief Stephen Chapman said that when officers questioned Elizabeth on the street with the other two present, they had to ask several times what her name was.
"It took some time before we could actually determine that it was her," he said. "Under the circumstances, that was probably very normal."
He said she explained why she was wearing a veil, wig and sunglasses but declined to say elaborate. He also declined to comment on whether she was abused, and said he didn't know if she had tried to escape.
Ed Smart received a call Wednesday from Sandy police, telling him to drive to their headquarters without stopping. Minutes later, he and Elizabeth were reunited.
"All of the children out there deserve to come back to their parents the way Elizabeth has come back to us," he said, breaking into tears. "It is nothing but a miracle. I just held her, held her all the way home."
Elizabeth's uncle Dave Smart said she appeared well-fed. She was examined at a hospital and taken home.
"We have Elizabeth, we have the person who took her," Dave Smart said. "You couldn't ask for any better closure than that."
Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said investigators were convinced Elizabeth was kidnapped. Asked whether he believed she was held against her will, Dinse said, "At this point, yes, I do."
Police tried to piece together the events of the past nine months, with details emerging that she may have been as far away as California at times and as close as Salt Lake City.
Elizabeth told her father she spent some of the time she was abducted in San Diego, Chris Thomas said. Witnesses also reported seeing Mitchell and two female companions at a San Diego County grocery store around Christmas.
Daniel Trotta, 24, told The Associated Press that he believed Elizabeth stayed in his basement apartment in Salt Lake City for nearly a week in October after Trotta befriended Mitchell, a customer at the health-food store where he once worked. Trotta said he invited the couple and the girl who was with them to stay because they had no home.
Mitchell introduced the girl as his daughter, Trotta said. She said little, always wore a veil and made no effort to escape. Trotta said when he asked once for her name, Mitchell ordered the girl not to respond.
Trotta went to police Sunday after he recognized Mitchell on "America's Most Wanted." He said police dusted his apartment for fingerprints Tuesday. A police spokeswoman could not immediately confirm that officers had been to the apartment.
Mitchell's relatives have described him as a self-proclaimed prophet and outdoorsman who has lived in a teepee in mountains outside the city.
Elizabeth's mother, Lois Smart, said in February that she met Mitchell in downtown Salt Lake City when he asked her for money. She gave him $5 and hired him to help her husband repair their home's roof in November 2001. He worked at the home for about five hours. Seven months later, Elizabeth disappeared.
Police initially focused on another handyman who worked for the Smarts, Richard Ricci, who denied being involved in Elizabeth's disappearance. He died in August while in prison on a parole violation.
The Smart family grew increasingly critical of police for focusing too much on Ricci. In mid-October, Mary Katherine, Elizabeth's 10-year-old sister who was the sole witness to the abduction, told her parents she thought Mitchell -- known then to the family as Emmanuel -- could have been the one who took Elizabeth.
Mitchell's sister called law enforcement after the Smart family held a news conference Feb. 3 to circulate an artist's sketch of the man and provided a photo of her brother.
The day Elizabeth was found, her family renewed its call for a national "Amber Alert" system to swiftly notify the public of missing children through the media.
"We are very, very relieved," said Marilyn Ward, director of Child Search, a national missing children center based in Houston. "This should help the cause of missing children everywhere. We are thankful she's alive. It gives hope to people to never give up."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)