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Sandy Journal

March marked 20 years since Elizabeth Smart was found in Sandy

Mar 31, 2023 11:27AM ● By Heather Lawrence

Elizabeth Smart was found walking along State Street near 10200 South in Sandy with her captors on March 12, 2003. Sandy police detained and questioned them, and she was reunited with her family later that day. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)

March 12 marked 20 years since Elizabeth Smart was found in Sandy. Smart had been kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home when she was 14. Dressed in a disguise and accompanied by her two captors, Smart was noticed by two couples who called in tips to the police. 

Anita and Alvin Dickerson and Nancy and Rudy Montoya spotted Smart walking on State Street at about 10200 South. Police responded within minutes, eventually sending four officers to question the trio.

After nine months of abuse, trauma and threats, Smart said she was scared to give her identity to the officers. During questioning, her captors gave police false names and Smart initially went along with that. 

“Her heart was beating so hard in her chest you could see it. She was extremely, visibly nervous,” said Sandy officer Bill O’Neal of that day. Officers Troy Rasmussen, Victor Quezada and Karen Jones were also there. 

Eventually Smart was taken aside from the adults for questioning. In a March 2023 interview with Fox 13 News she talked about what happened next. 

“The police officer said, ‘We need you to say who you are. There’s this girl, she’s been missing now for a very long time. Her family’s never stopped searching for her, they want her to come home more than anything in this world.’”

Fearing threats from her captors, Smart denied it, saying, “I know who you think I am, but I’m not that girl. That Elizabeth Smart girl, that’s not me.”

But she said inside she was thinking, “‘Oh my gosh, maybe, could [the police officer] mean me? Could he actually mean me?’ It really wasn’t until that moment that I was able to say, ‘I’m Elizabeth Smart.’” 

A happy reunion with her family at the Sandy police station followed. Since then, Smart has gone on to prove that the best punishment she can give her captors is for her to live a happy life. She’s graduated from college, served a church mission, written a book, married and is raising three children. 

She’s also become an advocate for those who suffer abuse and sexual violence. She’s shared her story countless times and started The Elizabeth Smart Foundation, Smart Defense and her new Wholehearted Consent education modules. 

Smart gave several media interviews in March to discuss her experience and what’s happened in the 20 years since she was found. In an interview with Gayle King on CBS Morning News, Smart described how she feels when March 12 rolls around each year, the day she was found in Sandy. 

“March 12 is nothing but a good day, nothing but a happy day,” she said. “The biggest miracle in my life happened on March 12, so it’s definitely a good day.”