SALT LAKE CITY - Nearly nine years after she was abducted at knifepoint from her bed, Elizabeth Smart watched Wednesday without showing any emotion as a federal judge ordered a street preacher to spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping and raping her while holding her captive for months.
The sentencing of Brian David Mitchell closed a major legal chapter in the long ordeal that stalled for years after Mitchell was declared mentally ill and unfit to stand trial.
"I know that you know what you did is wrong," Smart told Mitchell. "You took away nine months of my life that can never be returned."
She appeared poised and composed, speaking in even tones. "I have a wonderful life," she said. "You will never affect me again."
After the hearing, Smart smiled and hugged family members and her lawyers. She later said she was thrilled with the sentence.
Mitchell did not respond when U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball handed down two life sentences at the hearing in Salt Lake City. Federal sentencing rules do not allow parole. A jury had unanimously convicted Mitchell, 57, in December of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex.
Smart was 14 when she was abducted from the bedroom of her family home in Salt Lake City. Wednesday was the first time she faced her kidnapper in court. Now 23, she testified earlier in excruciating detail about waking up in the early hours of June 5, 2002, to the feel of a cold, jagged knife at her throat and being whisked away by Mitchell to his camp in the foothills. She was tethered to a metal cable strung between two trees and subjected to near-daily rapes.
The disappearance and a massive search to find her riveted the nation, as did her improbable recovery while walking with her captor in Salt Lake City on March 12, 2003.
Outside court Wednesday, Smart said the sentencing, which came on National Missing Children's Day, "is the end of a long chapter and the start of a beautiful chapter for me." She said that she wanted to work to help other missing children get back to their families and see that abductors are brought to justice.